State spending will rise next year billions beyond what Governor Hochul proposed in her January budget, if the Senate and Assembly have their way.
On Monday, both chambers separately adopted “one-house” budget resolutions on party-line votes staking out the Majority party’s position on spending, revenue and related provisions in the budget.
Piling additional spending onto the governor’s blueprint turns out to be, predictably, a priority for both chambers.
The Assembly, which to its credit included a detailed summary and accounting of the various budget bills that its budget resolution incorporates by reference, would hike state operating funds spending for the fiscal year that begins April 1 by $13 billion, or 10.3 percent, above the current-year level, to $127.1 billion, and raise the all-funds total to $226.4 billion.
In the Assembly’s accounting (see chart below from page one of the chamber’s summary document), Governor Hochul’s proposal is first re-baselined upward from $216 billion to $218 billion to account for a $2 billion slush fund she invited the Legislature to fill up with its own spending priorities, but whose impact is omitted from her budget totals. The Assembly budget spends that $2 billion and then ladles on $7.9 billion more in additions to the governor’s proposal.
The one-house budgets benefit from an additional $1.2 billion in assumed revenue, relative to the Governor’s budget, which was identified in the consensus economic and revenue forecast issued on March 1. Otherwise, the Assembly hikes spending by redirecting dollars Hochul would set aside as reserves against an economic downturn.
Total spending in the Senate resolution appears to be close to the Assembly number. The chamber failed to issue a separate summary document or overall accounting of its resolution. A 17-page press release the Majority issued yesterday highlighted dozens of specific spending increases in its budget — but failed to provide a total. Senate Finance Committee ranking member Tom O’Mara issued a release Monday, however, that states in part, “According to the Senate GOP finance staff, the Senate Democrat budget is calling for an approximately $224-billion budget with double-digit increases in state spending.”
So, while the chambers’ specific funding priorities differ — we’ll have more on that to come —both would create an unsustainably high level of recurring state expenditures likely to require future tax hikes to support.
In better news, the Assembly rejected on procedural grounds the vast bulk of non-budgetary policy riders submitted with the governor’s budget —including many measures with which most of its members clearly agree on substance. And both chambers largely followed the recommendation of the Empire Center and other groups, who recently urged the Legislature to object to several of the slushier funds the governor requested to spend at her sole discretion.
This included an executive proposal, rejected by both chambers, to allow the governor unlimited transfer authority to reprogram for other purposes any of the dollars within a major appropriations bill funding executive agencies, the State Operations bill.
Politico reports that at the Capitol Monday House Speaker Carl Heastie said his conference, “just wanted to put forward a fiscal document. If it was a policy item, we pretty much across the board took it off.”
In recent years, budget laws have been used as the vehicle for key changes in state policy — such as bail reform —not primarily budgetary in nature. That’s contrary to the New York State Constitution, whose Article VII, Section 6 states:
“No provision shall be embraced in any appropriation bill submitted by the governor or in such supplemental appropriation bill unless it relates specifically to some particular appropriation in the bill, and any such provision shall be limited in its operation to such appropriation.” (emphasis added)
An entire state budget in excess of $200 billion is enough to consider as part of the budget process, without folding in major unrelated issues that should be considered – and subject to an up or down vote —based on their own merits.
The Senate should take the Assembly’s lead in knocking such policy riders out of the budget.