We wonder if the ongoing turmoil in Washington has been a godsend to our elected representatives in Albany.
Their shortcomings this year have flown pretty much under the radar.
In past years, budget negotiations were often followed religiously by reporters and citizens alike, looking for action on corruption and reduced spending. Ultimately, when the “big ugly” — as New York’s budget bill has come to be known — is finally delivered in the early morning hours without a chance for legislators to read it, never mind debate it, the entire process is derided for its lack of transparency.
And then the electorate — thanks to gerrymandered districts all across the state — re-elects all the same players six months later to repeat the process again.
Welcome to Groundhog’s Day — Albany-style.
If you haven’t noticed, we are disgusted because we have been here before.
And because it is an election year for the Legislature, we sense there was urgency in passing a budget that did as little as possible to rock the boat.
Sure, an enhanced sexual harassment policy was adopted — both Democrats and Republicans weren’t about to take on the #MeToo movement while campaigning — but it was the very least they could do. It was nice to see nondisclosure agreements are now banned.
Confusing workarounds were passed to help New Yorkers deal with the consequences of the federal tax limits on deductions, but unless you are a high-end property owner, we’re not sure if these moves will help the average Josephine in the street.
Education aid increased $1 billion — everybody was for that — but there was no political will to have a debate on gun control measures that our neighbors in Vermont passed, or school security.
Opioid manufacturers got dinged with a tax that could raise some $100 million dollars to combat the drug problem, but thankfully that was the only significant tax passed. Republicans fought off proposed taxes and fees Gov. Cuomo proposed.
In the end, the new budget stayed under the tax cap as existing revenue streams exceeded projections in the original budget. In other words, it was a good year on Wall Street.
This budget was more about what was not included.
Fresh off the guilty verdict in the Joseph Percoco corruption trial, the Legislature did nothing to address safeguarding economic development funds and ethics in general were again ignored.
Early voting was panned, the Child Victims Act was ignored and the LLC loophole remains open and ready for use to buy politicians.
There is still time in the legislative session to address all these issues, but we don’t think you should hold your breath. Without the urgency of the budget, Albany legislators tend to put up their feet up this time of year and relax.
Perhaps the most insulting agreement of all was the Assembly Democrats’ request that Gov. Cuomo convene another commission to consider a pay raise for the Legislature.
We argue that until they move the state forward on the significant issues of the day — without holding the state budget hostage — any raise for our representatives should be dead on arrival.