The budget is done. The legislature is gone nearly a week later then they had anticipated; they have padded themselves on the back and crowed about the third on time budget in thirty years. What they left behind was a budget process in shambles. There were no open leaders' meetings. This year they were 4 men in a room instead of the usually three men in a room and old Albany, of budgets done behind closed doors, appears to be back. The joint conference committee process which began in 1998 with promise seems now to be strictly when it occurs, mostly for show. The subcommittees with their available appropriations were convened late in the process with so little money and didn’t ever convene to report their work. Yes, the governor issued no “messages of necessity” which did allow for the three day aging of budget bills but the Senate debated those budget bills almost entirely in the middle of the night. The assembly did debate all of its budget bills in 13 hours during a 13 hour marathon ending last night Thursday at midnight. What nobody mentions is the precedent that former Governor Patterson established that, if a budget is not done by the April 1st deadline, the executive just substitutes the entire budget in an extender and legislators either accept that entire budget or shut down government. It would appear that there may never be another late New York State budget.
There were a number of issues that were debated in both the Senate and the Assembly including minimum wage, the cuts to non-profits that provide services to the developmentally disabled, the lack of inclusion in the budget of the Dream Act, and “adjustments” to the NY SAFE Act. By far the most passion debate was a bipartisan angst over the cuts to the developmentally disabled budget. There is some talk of finding ways to recoup more of the cuts to that area. It appears the governor has avoided opening up the NY SAFE ACT by tweaking the bill in the budget.
The Legislature will now be out of Albany and back in their districts for the next two weeks. The rest of the legislative session will deal with issues like campaign refinance reform, election reform, the women’s equality agenda, legalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use, addressing the “Stop and Frisk” issue and legalizing Mixed Martial Arts.