New York passed its fiscal year 2019 budget last weekend, and it was once again the result of a flawed process that is completely lacking in transparency.
The budget is negotiated behind closed doors by a small group wielding immense power to shape the future of this state. The entire Legislature gets little opportunity to review or try to improve the budget, and the public has little input.
The budget unquestionably has some positives, including a nearly $1 billion increase in school aid funding, a significant investment in support for higher education, funding for capital projects for the New York State park system, a $1 million increase in state library aid, a $100 million fund to fight the opioid epidemic, and more.
However, many items that could have made a significant difference in New York were left out of the budget.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo in February announced a plan for $7 million to allow New York counties to offer 12 days of early voting. That proposal did not make the final budget, which means New York will continue to be one of the most restrictive states for voters.
The budget also did not include sorely needed ethics reform. As one official after another faces corruption charges, New York continues to refuse to consider anything that might help such as outside income bans, campaign finance reform, term limits, etc.
Efforts to extend the statute of limitations on child molestation and prohibit cash bail for suspects in misdemeanor and nonviolent felonies were also left out of the budget.
Republican lawmakers argue that such policy issues don’t belong in the budget. But when such issues are not considered at budget time, they generally are not considered at any other time either.
Putting together a budget for a state as large and diverse as New York is no easy task, but the process can and should be better, more transparent and more inclusive.