With little advance notice or fanfare, a constitutional amendment (S.1) that would give the Legislature much more power to shape the state budget was reported out of the Senate Finance Committee today. The Assembly version (A.2) was approved back in February, so the measure is now a big step closer to a statewide voter referendum.

When it was first passed last year, proponents said the amendment would put an end to late state budgets by rewriting the state’s basic law to provide for an automatic “contingency” plan when a fiscal year starts without a new budget in place. But on closer inspection, the purported budget “reform” looks like more of a self-interested deform of a law that wasn’t broken to begin with. As explained in this FiscalWatch Memo:

“If enacted, the constitutional and statutory changes sought by the Senate and Assembly would mark a fundamental shift of power in the state Capitol. For the first time since the late 1920s, New York’s Legislature would ultimately have the upper hand in budget disputes with the governor. The result would be less fiscal discipline, higher spending and higher taxes — all without improving the efficiency, transparency or accountability of the state’s much-criticized budget process.”

Last year’s Court of Appeals decision in Silver v. Pataki strongly reaffirmed the Governor’s power, under Article 7 of the state Constitution, to shape appropriations language in a way that cannot be altered by the Legislature. This greatly annoyed legislative leaders, some of whom predicted (inaccurately, as it turned out) that the ruling would make it more difficult for them to pass a budget on time this year.

Since the Legislature just finished passing its first on-time budget in 20 years — proving it could, in fact, get the job done under the existing constitutional framework, despite (or, more likely, because of) the Silver v. Pataki decision — the Senate’s timing may seem strange. But consider this: if approved by the voters, the amendment would give either house of the Legislature the ability to unilaterally veto a governor’s budget merely by doing nothing until the clock ticks past midnight at the end of a fiscal year. That has to be an especially attractive option to a Republican-controlled body looking forward to the possible replacement of a Republican governor with a Democrat (such as Eliot Spitzer) in 2007.

The Finance Committee’s 31-2 vote in favor of the constitutional changes (with Senators Thomas Duane and Ada Smith, both Democrats, casting the only “nays”) advances the resolution to the Senate “first report” calendar. Under normal Senate procedures, it would be ready for floor action in two calendar days — which, for all practical purposes, means early May, after next week’s Passover recess.

About the Author

Tim Hoefer

Tim Hoefer is president & CEO of the Empire Center for Public Policy.

Read more by Tim Hoefer

You may also like

Another Hochul To-Do: Timely Financial Reporting

The state will spend a record $212 billion in the current 2022 Fiscal Year, under the budget its elected leaders adopted in April. Read More

Sales Tax Receipts Surge Statewide, Filling Local Government Coffers

Local governments across every region of the state raked in robust sales tax collections during the three months that ended on June 30th Read More

Health Research Inc. Turns Over its Payroll Records Despite Claiming To Be Exempt from FOIL

The full payroll records of more than 2,400 de facto state employees are available to the public for the first time after being released by Health Research Inc. Read More

Emergency Billions Pose Opportunity—and Risk—for NYS Schools

New York schools are to post publicly today plans for spending a huge pile of unexpected and unbudgeted cash. Read More

Remote Threat 

Remote work and a more mobile professional class will increase the speed and scope of New York's ongoing out migration. Read More

New York’s Medicaid Rolls Kept Pace with a Nationwide Surge During the Pandemic

New York's Medicaid and Child Health Plus programs added three-quarters of a million enrollees during the coronavirus pandemic, roughly matching the pace of a national surge in sign-ups. Read More

New York’s Medicaid and Public Health Crises Get Short Shrift in the New State Budget

In spite of an ongoing pandemic and spiraling Medicaid costs, New York's health-care system received surprisingly little attention in the new state budget. On issue after issue, law Read More

Tax hike and huge spending increase seem likely in next NY budget

New York state today began its 2022 fiscal year without an adopted budget—which, in itself, is not a big deal. The state government can continue to pay bills and employee salaries next week if either final appropriations Read More

Subscribe

Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100

General Inquiries: Info@EmpireCenter.org

Press Inquiries: Press@EmpireCenter.org

About

The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!