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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
“Budget twists and turns”
ALBANY, March 28 -- By the time you’re putting an eye on this column, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature may have already announced at least a preliminary, conceptual agreement on the framework of this year’s final state budget. Maybe even something beyond preliminary, but we’ll see.
In any case, this year’s budget remains on track for adoption by the end of the week. I can tell you that that’s the intention of the Senate. And by most accounts, from what I’m seeing, it appears the governor and Assembly leaders share the same goal.
Most state government analysts agree that this era of state budget making is defined by one overriding fact: the governor holds the upper hand to both encourage and invite legislative leaders to fashion a cooperative agreement, or to provoke a government shutdown. Governor Cuomo has made it crystal clear that he's ready and willing to take either option. So, yes, there's great incentive this year to reach the compromises required of every budget. The face-offs that have delayed state budgets year after year don't appear to be in the mix this time around.
That’s significant for plenty of reasons, but I’ll focus on just the first few that come to mind.
First, adopting the 2011-2012 state budget by the end of this week would send one undeniable message: things are beginning to change at the Capitol. The point being that if we’ve been able to negotiate this hard-to-turn corner for the first time in a long time, and to do it in as difficult a budget cycle as any New York has ever faced, maybe it bodes well for other challenges that have been stuck in neutral, mired in inaction, and lost in deadlock for decades.
We’ll see if this budget gridlock that’s finally breaking up like an early spring ice jam on the Hudson River in Albany unlooses the current of other change that’s needed. Let’s hope so. Just because this budget is signed, sealed and delivered doesn’t mean that the tough turns it’s setting in motion – and make no mistake, this is an enormously difficult, tough budget – are behind us. Not by any stretch. Not by a long shot.
I’ve been saying it, and it bears repeating here: New York is going to have to face these economic and fiscal battlegrounds for the foreseeable future. We just have to keep working through them and trying to do the best we can, as deliberately as we can. Because one other reality that’s going to come out of this new state budget – and we’ll have plenty of time to dissect the details in the weeks and months ahead – is that the Governor and Legislature are going to have keep watch over this one like no other budget before it. Our highest responsibility now will be to ensure that the changes being brought forth are doing what they’re intended to do, that we’re on top of every adjustment and turn of the dial that’s going to be needed. We’re not going to get it all right, all at once, and we have to stand ready to find better ways.
So there’s going to be a lot to monitor moving forward. I fully expect to get an earful. I already have. That’s good. There’s still an incredibly challenging workload ahead – property tax relief, mandate relief for local governments, ethics reform, and state government downsizing, to name just a few. But today, I think it’s important to recognize that after the past two years, when state taxes and state spending increased by unprecedented and unsustainable levels, this new state budget not only puts the brakes on runaway taxing and spending, it also pushes the turn signal toward a new direction that can be summed up, in broad strokes, this way: spending control and tax restraint. That’s a good start.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967
Doris L. Karius, 546-5544
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385
Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482
Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 415, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Christopher Friend --
Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869