(summary prepared by the Campaign Finance Board)
The proposed amendment to the State Constitution changes how the State budget is enacted into law. Under the current State Constitution, the Governor has the authority to develop the State’s budget after consultation with State agencies, and submits the budget to the Legislature along with the appropriation bills that authorize the spending outlined in the budget. In general, the Legislature must act on the Governor’s recommended appropriations bills before considering its own appropriations bills through the regular legislative process. If the Legislature does not change the Governor’s recommended budget, and passes the appropriations bills as submitted by the Governor, the budget becomes law without further action by the Governor, with certain exceptions. The Legislature can also amend the Governor’s appropriations bills, but only by eliminating items or reducing the money allocated to items included in the bills, or by adding new, separate items. If the Legislature adds items to the Governor’s appropriations bills, the Governor must approve the revised bills, and may use a “line item veto” to reject items added by the Legislature while approving the remainder of the bills. The Legislature may override the Governor’s veto by a two-thirds vote of each house. Although the Governor and Legislature must pass a budget before the new fiscal year, the budget is rarely passed on time.
The proposal recommends a new procedure to govern what happens when the Governor and Legislature are unable to agree on a budget by the start of a new fiscal year. Currently, the practice is that the Governor and Legislature approve temporary emergency spending bills to keep government programs running if a budget has not been passed on time. Under the proposal, if the Legislature has not voted on all appropriations bills submitted by the Governor by the beginning of the fiscal year, a contingency budget automatically takes effect. The contingency budget simply continues the budget from the preceding fiscal year. It is essentially “last year’s budget.” Under the proposal, the Legislature then can make changes to the contingency budget by passing a “multiple appropriations bill.” Any part of the multiple appropriations bill that changes the contingency budget must be approved by the Governor. Any part of the contingency budget that is not amended by the Legislature’s multiple appropriations bill will remain law when the Legislature passes its multiple appropriations bill and does not require the Governor’s approval. Thus, the Governor would have no authority to change those parts of the contingency budget that the Legislature had not amended.
To summarize, under the current State Constitution, the Governor develops a budget and submits it to the Legislature, which has limited ability to amend it. Under the proposal, in contrast, if the budget is not approved in time and a contingency budget goes into effect, the Legislature can develop its own “budget.” It does so by passing a multiple appropriations bill that amends the contingency budget, which the Governor then has limited ability to approve or disapprove.
The proposal also sets a fixed date for the Governor’s submission of the executive budget to the Legislature, and reduces the time during which the Governor may amend the executive budget submitted to the Legislature without legislative consent from 30 to 21 days. It requires that the public have access to the information State agencies give to the Governor to help the Governor develop the executive budget. The proposal also authorizes the Legislature to create a “fiscal stabilization reserve fund,” to provide adequate funding for school aid payments and to reserve funds for use in subsequent fiscal years.
If this proposed constitutional amendment is passed, a new State statute also will automatically take effect. The new State statute, however, is not part of the proposal before the voters. The statute changes the start of New York’s fiscal year from April 1 to May 1. The statute requires the Governor to include in the executive budget a two-year appropriation for education aid, and all spending related to Health Care Reform Act. The statute also creates an Independent Budget Office to provide the Legislature and the public with non-partisan information on the State’s finances and budget, including an annual economic forecast and fiscal impact statements on proposed legislation.
QUESTION 1. Amendment to Articles IV and VII of the Constitution, in relation to the submission of the budget to the Legislature by the Governor
The proposed amendment to Articles IV and VII of the Constitution would change the process for enactment of the state budget by (a) providing for a contingency budget if the Legislature does not act on the Governor’s appropriation bills before the start of the fiscal year; (b) placing limits on the amount of spending during such contingency period; (c) once such contingency period begins, eliminating the requirement that the Legislature act on the Governor’s proposed appropriation bills, and instead authorizing the Legislature to end the contingency period by adopting a multiple appropriation bill making changes to the contingency budget, subject to line item veto by the Governor; and (d) authorizing the Legislature, subject to veto by the Governor, to modify the spending limits for future contingency budgets, except that such changes cannot take effect until three years after enactment. The proposed amendment also sets forth certain requirements for the operation of a fiscal stabilization reserve fund, from which money could be disbursed in a subsequent year. It would require estimates and information provided by state departments to the Governor for use in preparing the budget to be available to the public. It would provide a date certain by which the Governor must submit a budget and appropriation bills to the Legislature. It would reduce the time the Governor has to make changes to the budget and appropriation bills submitted to the Legislature without the Legislature’s consent from thirty days to twenty-one days. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?
NOTE: QUESTIONS MAY BE NUMBERED DIFFERENTLY ON THE BALLOT
STATE BUDGET REFORM — PRO
LIST OF SUBMITTERS
Common Cause/NY (Megan Quattlebaum, Associate Director)
Common Cause/NY supports the proposed Constitutional amendment to improve budget transparency and accountability in our State. The current budget process is rife with dysfunction. State agencies’ budget requests to the Governor are not public, certain receipts and expenditures (notably parts of the Health Care Reform Act) do not appear on the budget at all, and there is no failsafe if state leaders cannot agree on a budget by the start of the fiscal year. The current proposals will improve transparency and accountability by instituting an Independent Budget Office, requiring that agencies’ budget requests become public, bringing HCRA on-budget, and allowing for a contingency budget if the new budget is not adopted on time. The balance of powers between the Legislature and the Governor will be altered in that the Legislature will have increased power to amend the executive budget proposal if a contingency budget is put in place, but this change will actually bring New York closer to the model followed by 44 other states, in which legislatures have unlimited authority to change the proposed executive budget throughout the budget process. While this reform is not a panacea, we believe it is a positive step forward and is worthy of support.
The New York Public Interest Research Group urges a YES vote on Proposal 1, the state budget reform constitutional amendment. For decades, New Yorkers have had to pay the price for a budget process that is secret, unaccountable and unpredictable. The damage from late budgets, fiscal gimmicks and mounting fiscal instability is rooted in Albany’s flawed budget process.
The public needs to know more about the development of the Governor’s budget proposal; the state needs to have an independent, nonpartisan fiscal watchdog to monitor the state’s finances; and the public needs to know that there will always be a budget in place.
The budget reform proposal accomplishes these modest goals. The reform, among other things, opens up the Governor’s budget to more public scrutiny, establishes an Independent Budget Office and creates a "contingency budget" if there is no budget agreement by the beginning of the fiscal year.
Essentially the "contingency budget" is last year’s budget and it would automatically go into effect on May 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year. This reform allows lawmakers to continue to negotiate changes, but there would be no threat of a government shutdown.
While more work still needs to be done; this budget reform proposal deserves support this November.
For the past two decades the words “late” and “broken” have become synonymous with New York State budgets and the budget process. We must fix the way state budgets are enacted and end late budgets.
The bipartisan budget reform proposal allows voters to change the very system that has resulted in our state’s much-maligned budget process.
The proposal ensures that budgets are enacted on time by revising the budget timeline, changing the start of the fiscal year from April 1 to May 1. It also accelerates the existing timeframe and imposes a contingency budget if a new budget is not adopted by May 1 – forever eliminating late state budgets.
Additionally, the plan ensures better long-term financial planning by providing two-year appropriations to school districts, also allowing for better local planning.
The amendment also demands greater accountability and more data from the state Division of Budget and state agencies. Additionally, it creates an Independent Budget Office to provide greater information related to the budget process.
I urge all New Yorkers to join top government reform groups including Citizens Union, Common Cause/NY, League of Women Voters/NYS and the New York Public Interest Research Group in supporting the bipartisan Budget Reform Constitutional Amendment.
STATE BUDGET REFORM — CON
LIST OF SUBMITTERS
The Business Council of New York State (Matthew Maguire, Director of Communications)
Jessica Sutliff, Brooklyn, New York
-- Because legislators are invariably under more pressure to spend taxpayer dollars than the governor, it would worsen the state’s tendency to tax and spend too much. Taxes, spending and government debt are far too high in New York already. This amendment would make all of those problems worse.
-- Taxes are particularly high in New York City, and residents and businesses in New York City already pay a disproportionately high percentage of taxes collected in New York State.
-- The proposed amendment would eliminate important elements of the strong-executive budget process created by former Governors Al Smith and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and recently affirmed by the state’s Court of Appeals.
-- It would effectively give state legislators a strong incentive to avoid on-time budgets in the future. It does that by requiring that, in any year the budget is not adopted on time, primary budget-making authority would shift to the Legislature.
-- Over the past three administrations, the Legislature has consistently tried to add substantial spending to budgets proposed by the governor. That’s the primary reason New York State has a structural deficit every year; next year’s budget gap is estimated at $2.9 billion. The current Executive Budget system, while imperfect, restrains spending in that it creates clear accountability in the office of the chief executive.
-- New York’s budget problems reflect a lack of spending restraint, not a faulty budget process.
The Citizens Budget Commission (CBC) opposes Proposal 1, a constitutional amendment to alter the State budget process. Although billed as "budget reform," the amendment contains provisions that will harm, rather than help, responsible budgeting, and it fails to address the major deficiencies in the State’s process.
The proposal establishes a "contingency budget" which takes effect if the Legislature fails to enact a budget by the start of the fiscal year and also gives the Legislature new powers to supplement that contingency budget with additional spending. By giving the Legislature more power when the budget is late, the proposal virtually guarantees late budgets every year - hardly a reform goal, and a step backward from the fiscal year 2005-06 accomplishment of passing an on-time budget under the existing rules.
Other critical reforms - such as requiring a balanced budget and long-term financial planning and limiting the State’s enormous appetite for debt - have been left out entirely. The enlarged rainy day fund authorized in the proposal is still well below what is needed and what is standard in most other states. Perhaps the most damaging aspect of the proposal is that its passage would tempt State leaders and voters to believe that the call for reform has been answered, when it really is just starting to be heard.
CITIZENS UNION, a citywide good government organization founded in 1897, is opposed to the proposed amendment to the State Constitution affecting the consideration and adoption of the State budget. Ostensibly crafted to reform the budget-making process, this plan shifts too much power away from the Governor and places it in the hands of the State Legislature. Though Citizens Union likes some of the amendment’s provisions and believes that the Governor currently has too much power over the way in which budgets are developed and passed, this amendment goes too far in addressing the problem.
Under the proposal, the Legislature gains control of developing the budget if it does not act on the Governor’s proposed executive budget by the start of the fiscal year. This setup would invariably invite a late budget and the Legislature would have little incentive to negotiate with the Governor until then. When no budget exists at the start of the fiscal year, a contingency budget is put in place. The contingency budget is also problematic, because it is based on last year’s disbursements and not negotiated allocations. Additionally, the law implementing this amendment does not specify how the contingency budget would be developed, what form it would take, if it would be made public, and which allocations would qualify as recurring. Citizens Union is an advocate for reforming the budget process, but the passage of this amendment would not make real progress and could create more chaos, and for this reason, we urge voter to VOTE NO
I advocate voting AGAINST State Ballot Proposal Number One.
This is a pure power grab on the part of the State Legislature. The Legislature can purposely delay taking action on the Governor’s budget bills so they can substitute their own. If approved, this ballot proposal would make the Governor almost meaningless in budget negotiations. Don’t be fooled by statements that this amendment will prevent late budgets. A late budget is better than an on-time disaster for the Taxpayers of this State.
The State Legislature has a history of being beholden to special interests. If given unchecked control over the state budget, the State Legislators will spend our tax dollars like a bunch of drunken sailors. This amendment to our State Constitution SHOULD NOT be approved.