The budget is the centerpiece of the legislative session in New York, governing the allocation of funds to state agencies and programs with far-reaching implications for residents. As such, the passage of a state budget bill should be a thorough, transparent and democratic process that allows for ample public input and discussion.
However, governors have sometimes used “messages of necessity,” allowing them to waive the constitutional requirement for bills to age on lawmakers’ desks for three days before being voted on.
Over the past ten state budgets this tactic has been used at least eight times, including during Governor Hochul’s first budget last year.
The Governor may be tempted to issue a message of necessity for this year’s budget, which is now more than three weeks late. Several policy related items have caused budget negotiations to move at a “glacial” pace.
As we have seen play out in New York over the past few weeks, the budget is being negotiated by a select few legislators and the governor’s office. Trickles of information about where they stand in the process have leaked to the press. This means many legislators are not in the know about what is in or out of the budget and will need time to understand what’s contained in the final deal.
With the ability to pass additional budget extenders, allowing the state to keep making payroll, the case for using a message of necessity on the final budget bills is nonexistent. Allowing three additional days for public vetting of the final budget of over $230 billion is a practice of good government and due diligence.
There are solutions to help increase transparency and ensure proper deliberation of the budget. Senator Mark Walczyk, who represents the 49th senate district, and Assembly Republican Leader Barclay have introduced a constitutional amendment (S4285/A5996) that would end the use of messages of necessity for budget bills.
As the budget takes shape in the coming days or weeks, New Yorkers should be very skeptical if a message of necessity is issued on this already overdue budget, and question even more than normal what lawmakers are doing with their tax dollars.