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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"In like a lion, out like..."

ALBANY, March 3 -- Here’s a quick musing from the Farmers’ Almanac on the old “in like a lion, out like a lamb” saying about the month of March: “With March being such a changeable month, in which we can see warm spring-like temperatures or late-season snowstorms, you can understand how this saying might hold true in some instances. We can only hope that if March starts off cold and stormy it will end warm and sunny, but the key word is hope.”

It’s right there for the taking, so we might as well go ahead and apply this very same thought to New York State’s budget adoption process, which unquestionably comes in like a lion this month (beginning this coming week, in fact) along with the hope that it will go out a lot more agreeably with the enactment of a new state budget sometime before the April 1st start of New York’s 2012-2013 fiscal year.

There’ll be plenty of barometers to gauge the contentiousness and timeliness of this year’s budget so, for now, let’s stay focused on the facts. The process gets started in a big way in the coming days when the Senate and Assembly finalize in-house budget plans, which sets the stage for legislative action on these separate proposals the following week, which is immediately followed by the start of what’s called the “joint budget conference committee process” that’s been a touchstone of New York’s yearly budget-making since the Budget Reform Act of 2007.

It’s worth noting that all of the above gets underway at the same time that the news media and other organizations across the country prepare for this year’s “Sunshine Week,” beginning on March 11th, a nationally recognized initiative to promote the importance of open government and freedom of information (read more about it at www.sunshineweek.org). So it’s good timing that Sunshine Week 2012 coincides with the return of the conference committee process as part of New York’s 2012 budget cycle. It’s a process consistent with the goal of heightening the public’s understanding and awareness of budget and public finance-related matters. Few would say it’s the be-all and end-all of successful state budgeting, but it does facilitate openness and public scrutiny.

Each bipartisan budget conference committee (generally a total of 10 are convened) is made up of 10 senators and assembly members and meets in public to examine specific portions of the budget – education, local assistance, health and human services, public protection, taxes and economic development, and several others. The agreements reached by these committees set the stage for final budget negotiations between the Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo leading up to the start of New York’s new fiscal year on Sunday, April 1, 2012.

But conference committees can also bring to light outstanding controversies – in short, they serve to pinpoint the differences that can make or break a final budget. And the process can serve up debates that were often kept behind closed doors in the past. Many of these debates are worth watching and you can view them, daily, through the following Senate website: http://www.nysenate.gov/live_today

So I personally welcome the conference committee process. Just recall that during a 20-year period from 1984 to 2004, not a single state budget was adopted on time. Not one. One culprit for this dysfunction was the lack of public scrutiny, and it helped facilitate a long line of unsustainable tax-and-spend state budgets. Conference committees help ensure a process that’s more accountable and more devoted to public clarity – something that’s especially important in years like this one when we’re facing so many deep-rooted and substantive changes.

So March in New York State government is about to come roaring in, and I’ll do my best to keep you updated on exactly how it goes out.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

 

Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison

Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field

   
       

Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

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
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address: http://schumer.senate.gov/webform.html

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451
Website: http://gillibrand.senate.gov/

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976
www.omara.nysenate.gov

Assemblyman Christopher Friend -- Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
Room 720, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-4538
Website: http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/?ad=137

 

© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869

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