The 2020-2021 New York State Budget is due to be passed no later than April 1, 2020.
Obviously, the coronavirus outbreak has complicated the effort to negotiate and pass the budget in a timely manner. To date, four Members of the State Legislature have tested positive for the coronavirus. The workplace restrictions and social distancing necessitated by the outbreak have taken Members and staff away from the Capitol during a crucial period. The Legislature is exploring options that would let members vote without being physically present, and the New York State Capitol has been closed to members of the public.
Given the fiscal challenges resulting from the outbreak, and given that the state was already facing a $6 billion budget deficit prior to the coronavirus outbreak and what may now be a $15 billion deficit, the smartest move that the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo could make would be to pass a no-nonsense budget that shores up essential services while making needed cuts. However, Gov. Cuomo has other ideas. The Governor wants to use the budget process to pass controversial bills that will increase his power, punish his political opponents and reward political allies.
- Gov. Cuomo wants to create a $100-million system of taxpayer funding for political campaigns. (The Governor’s vision of a publicly-funding campaign system closely tracks the system that was put into place by an unelected commission before being thrown out by a judge earlier this year. That system was widely viewed as an act of retaliation against the Working Families Party, the left-leaning party that supported Cynthia Nixon’s gubernatorial campaign against the Governor in 2018.)
- The Governor is also eager to pass paid surrogacy legislation, a longtime priority of LGBT advocates.
- Furthermore, the Governor has stated his intent to use the budget process to legalize recreational marijuana. In a year when the state government is strapped for cash, calls for a system that would tax marijuana sales may gain traction.
This year’s unusual budget process increases the chances that objectionable language will be quietly added to the budget for the purpose of avoiding debate and public input. Controversial issues like taxpayer funding of campaigns, paid surrogacy, and recreational marijuana should be considered on their merits as stand-alone bills, not attached to budget legislation and passed in the dead of night during a pandemic. New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms calls on Members of the Legislature to insist upon the passage of a clean budget with no controversial special-interest provisions. During this time of crisis, when debate will be limited and voting will be remote in many cases, New York voters deserve no less.
Please contact the Governor, your State Senator and your Member of the Assembly today. Tell them “no” on any budget bills that include taxpayer funding of campaigns, paid surrogacy, recreational marijuana, or other controversial policy issues.