Adoption of the budget on time is what the state Legislature and governor get paid to do. This budget continues to be negotiated behind closed doors between Gov. Kathy Hochul, state Senate Democratic Majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Democratic state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. Only they, their key aide and many of the infamous Albany State Street lobbyists representing various special interest, Pay to Play groups are privy to the details.
Republican State Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt and Republican State Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay along with most members of the state Senate and Assembly are left out in the cold. Hochul’s proposed budget includes $14.8 billion in spending whose purpose is undefined. This opens the door for waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayers’ dollars. So much for honest, above-board, transparent and open government promised by Hochul, Stewart-Cousins and Heastie.
Too many members view the funding of member item pork barrel projects as a path to grease the wheels of re-election or a run for higher office. Like a monkey on their back, they appear to be addicted to this spending. Stewart-Cousins and Heastie both use this as a tool to keep their respective loyal flocks in line. Vote as directed by the “leadership” for adoption of the new budget and you will receive your share of the several hundred million member items pot of gold. Those few Democrats who have to run in competitive races receive “extra” earmarks from Heastie, courtesy of taxpayers.
Will members of the Legislature take an Evelyn Wood speed-reading class to absorb over 1,000 pages contained in the final spending bill? They usually receive these only hours before being asked to vote up or down. Liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, we would all be better off if our Assembly and Senate members took the time to actually read, line by line, any proposed legislation before voting. Their legislative actions impact both our economic and civil liberties. Future generations have to pay for and live with the consequences.
There should have been an open budget process agency by agency. The public, media and members of the Legislature should have been afforded sufficient time to read the fine print line by line, page by page and conduct an open debate before adoption.
It is still business as usual in Albany. Upon retirement, too many members of the Assembly, Senate and their employees join the thousands of infamous State Street Albany lobbyists. They subsequently return to the Capital on behalf of their new employers for client “favors.” Albany lobbyists, just like in Washington, play a behind-the-scenes role in assisting members and staff of the state Legislature to write and insert favorable language for clients into bills. This is buried in the fine print contained within the hundreds of bills and annually adopted state budget. This is known as a quid pro quo.
Lobbyists purchase tickets to elected officials’ fund-raising events held during evening hours after the daily legislative sessions. They also have their own political action committees make direct campaign contributions to candidates running for another term.
Former elected officials and their staff supplement generous state pension plans by double-dipping as lobbyists. Upon retirement, they win the trifecta by also collecting Social Security. This is a nice gig which ordinary taxpayers can only dream about.