My Baker’s Dozen Plus One of proposals to lead New York into fiscal solvency:
1. We need legislation which I and others are sponsoring to cap spending in annual budgets. Spending rates which exceed two to three times the rate of inflation are not sustainable.
2. Implement the laws pending that provide 2/3 majority vote of the Legislature for both significant tax increases and any use of a “one shot” (one-time revenues used for ongoing programs and expenditures). Deficits like the one’s we’ve faced over the years are created because of the use of these revenues in this way and because the Legislature spends more than the revenue it has at hand.
3. Pass the law which insists a budget can only be completed through conference committees where rank and file members are fully involved in the process. “Three Men in a Room” gave us a 2009 budget which increased taxes by $8.2 billion. “Two Men in a Room” has so far given us a 2010 budget that is over 100 days late. And the hold-up appears to be about what level of bad economic medicine they are going to prescribe for taxpayers to finalize the process.
4. We need a real late budget pay penalty whereby the Legislature and Governor lose one day’s pay for everyday a final plan is not in place by the April 1st deadline. No taxpayer in our districts across the state expects to go to work, sit there, and still get paid while not accomplishing their most important duty.
5. Legislation to eliminate unfunded mandates on school districts, municipalities, small businesses and taxpayers needs to be implemented. It’s great to create ideas to develop a perfect world. But someone has to pay for it. Unfortunately, that cost ends up getting passed onto taxpayers.
6. We need to pass legislation I and others are supporting for a property tax circuit breaker cap to hold the line on these regressive taxes. Also, we need to move toward a less regressive source of funding for a good, basic education.
7. Reform of the so-called “member item” process is necessary to move toward fiscal solvency. I have authored the “Community Needs Reform Bill” which would take the politics out of the process.
8. “Truth in Borrowing” – This bill would make sure the public is informed of the interest, pay back period, and total cost of any borrowing the Governor and or Legislature should want to undertake. This information would be placed on any borrowing measure put on the ballot.
9. Eighteen states have recall legislation and it will be on the ballot in Illinois this year. New York State needs to return power to the people by passing the bill I authored to give them the ability to recall legislators who are fiscally or otherwise derelict in their duties.
10. It’s time for a limited “People’s Constitutional Convention” so rank and file citizens can have their voices heard.
11. Ethics and Election Law Reform where outside income and any relationships with the state is totally transparent and where we have full disclosure of any contributions that are received.
12. The Governor’s conversion to a born-again fiscal conservative after he decided not to run for a full-term illustrates why we need a full and open debate about the merits of legislative and gubernatorial term limits.
13. Small businesses historically create 40 to 60 percent of new jobs. We need to provide tax credits, breaks and incentives for those who will hire individuals off the unemployment roles and guarantee sustained job creation and growth. This will expand New York’s revenue base as more are working and paying taxes.
14. Last but not least, we need to send the message to legislators, Governors and leaders that they will face competitive elections and will be removed if they are not fiscally responsible. To that end, I am the author and sponsor of redistricting reform legislation whereby an outside, independent commission will base the development of new districts on the commonality of communities and not the political power of legislative majorities to protect their incumbents.
Although not an exhaustive list of necessary reforms, these are just 14 proposals which would help renew New York’s economy and legislative process.