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Oh, SmAlbany!

Daily posts and occasional longer essays about politics, culture, and life in the Capital Region...updated M-F, midmorning


"I write this not as a booster of Albany, which I am, nor an apologist for the city, which I sometimes am, but rather as a person whose imagination has become fused with a single place, and in that place finds all the elements that a man ever needs..." -W. Kennedy, from O Albany!

Looks like we'll vote...

..in the fall on a constitutional amendment regarding state budget reform. The legislature overroad Pataki's veto yesterday. While we'll have plenty of chances to get into the details of this in the coming months, I can say right now that I will be advocating a yes vote. The budget process was already far too tied up in the hands of three men prior to last year's Court ruling, which effectively made the governor the sole budget-writer. This is from the New York Times last December 18th:
New York State's highest court ruled on Thursday that the power to make budgets rests decisively with the governor, and that the Legislature's main budget-making power rests in its ability to stall the passage of budgets it does not like in an effort to win concessions through negotiations.

The court ruled that the Legislature could not simply take the governor's proposals, strike them and replace them with its own proposals for the same programs on separate lines - as the Legislature has essentially done in the state's last two adopted budgets.

The court also granted the governor broad latitude to set policy in his budget bills. Governor Pataki, lawmakers say, has gone much further than his predecessors in trying to pass new initiatives through his budget bills; the Legislature says that this infringes on its authority. In budget bills in 2001, for instance, Mr. Pataki tried to change the school financing formula and create a new entity to run the state's library and museum in Albany.

[Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye], in her dissent, concluded that "the governor has overstepped the line that separates his budget-making responsibility from the Legislature's lawmaking responsibility, setting an unacceptable model for the future."
Correct or not as a technical legal matter, we need to remedy this as public policy. It is unreasonable to put so much discretionary power in the hands of the governor, especially in an age where the state budget is the bulk of the state's business as a governing entity. Thus the constitutional amendment. Our system is a republican one partially because we give priority to the legislature in matters of the purse. That true no matter what party or ideology you subscribe to or believe in. The current situation in New York is not reflective of this. Here's the full court decision if you are interested.
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