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OPINION: Budget Priorities that Will Break the Bank

By Will Barclay

Date:

The process of developing the annual New York State Budget officially begins when the governor presents his spending proposal in late January. But the terms of negotiations become clearer once legislative-majority conferences offer their financial plans, which Assembly Democrats unveiled recently. “One-House Budget Resolutions” should be viewed as a political statement rather than a policy document. However, the statement made by progressives in the Assembly is cause for concern and anxiety.

First and foremost, the Assembly one-house budget proposal calls on taxpayers to subsidize $208 billion in total spending, an unprecedented 10.9 percent increase in operating expenses. In addition, the plan calls for $6.8 billion in new taxes for Fiscal Year 2021-2022 and another $7.8 billion the following year.

This is especially troubling when you start comparing New York’s budget to other large states. The proposed $208 billion price tag puts New York in the same ballpark as California, which has an annual budget of about $227 billion. California, though, has a population of nearly 40 million people; that is more than double the population of New York. 

 Texas has a population of 29 million residents and an annual budget of $112 billion while Florida has a population of 21.5 million residents and an annual budget of $97 billion. New York’s (shrinking) population totals about 19.5 million residents. Why are Assembly Democrats suggesting New York’s budget should be the size of those two states combined?

 California, like New York, is a liberal-leaning state, while Texas and Florida trend toward conservative principles. New York’s problem, apparently, is a self-inflicted spending problem that has never been adequately addressed.

What makes these figures even more disturbing is the reality that we are set to receive $12.7 billion in federal funding as part of the recently-enacted American Rescue Plan. Much of that money — as much as $10 billion — has not been earmarked for specific purposes. Conceptually, that is outrageous. In addition, revenues are coming into New York at a much higher rate than previously predicted. While restraint and fiscal prudence are still necessary, the immediate budget crisis is not as severe as we thought. Raising taxes permanently on New Yorkers still reeling from one of the worst economic collapses in a lifetime while sitting on $10 billion in cash is both illogical and insulting. 

 New York State has some of the highest tax rates in the country. People are fleeing. Democrats look at this information and somehow see an opportunity to raise taxes and increase spending. The progressive instinct to spend money with reckless abandon and treat taxpayers — in this case, the federal government as well — as a personal piggy bank is going to bankrupt our state. Don’t forget, the state was already facing a $7 billion budget deficit even before COVID struck. The Assembly Democrats’ budget proposal demonstrates that some have learned nothing. 

 The Assembly Republican Conference has repeatedly called for more fiscal responsibility. Somehow, a major economic crisis has emboldened Democrats to spend more than ever rather than craft a budget that acknowledges reality: we spend way too much money and our taxes are too high. The direction of our state is concerning. This budget could have been an opportunity to reduce waste, use much-needed financial aid to ease taxpayers’ burdens, and put New York back on the right track. Instead, it appears Democrats are gearing up to make a bad situation even worse.        

William (Will) A. Barclay, Republican, is the New York Assembly Minority Leader and represents the 120th New York Assembly District, which encompasses most of Oswego County, including the cities of Oswego and Fulton, as well as the town of Lysander in Onondaga County and town of Ellisburg in Jefferson County. Contact Barclay at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us. 

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