Marc W. Butler

Assemblyman airs concerns over budget transparency

Published Feb 19, 2018 at 4:00pm

Assemblyman Marc W. Butler is concerned by the recent assessment of the state’s chief fiscal watchdog that parts of
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s nearly $170 billion proposed budget would raise questions about transparency by expanding the governor’s control over state spending.

These provisions, which could help the state respond to changes in federal funding and policy by boosting budgetary flexibility, also cause uncertainty about their effect on state agencies, municipalities and nonprofits, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in an analysis.

“At a time of difficult financial challenges, transparency, accountability and oversight in the use of public dollars are more important than ever,” said the comptroller in a statement.

Butler, R-118, Newport, also has reservations about the governor’s proposal.

“State Comptroller DiNapoli shares my concerns over the governor’s budget, which gives the executive more and more power over how the state spends money,” said the assemblyman.

“The more the governor is allowed to circumvent the Legislature on matters of the budget, the more dangerous it is for our taxpayers.”

Cuomo would, DiNapoli said, get ”broad grants of unilateral authority ... to manage or reshape the budget,“ the “elimination of important checks and balances” and be able to use “budget actions that obscure
the level and growth of state revenues, spending and obligations,” the comptroller’s report said.

DiNapoli’s report also calls 2018 a “high-pressure year” for the state budget because of the federal tax overhaul and other changes Washington is making that will impact New York’s bottom line.

“The comptroller discovered how the governor is using off-budget spending, changes in the timing of disbursements and other accounting tricks to make it appear that operating costs are below 2 percent,” said Butler.

“In fact, with these factors considered, operating costs are closer to 4 percent,” the assemblyman added.

“This approach to the budget is deceptive and my colleagues in the Legislature must remove these unprecedented grabs
for control by the governor over the state spending plan,” said Butler.

In January, Cuomo outlined a $168.2 billion budget for fiscal 2019 that switches from an employee-paid tax system to an employer-paid system, potentially easing the increased tax burden that some state residents will feel from the new federal tax overhaul.

He also proposed revenue increases, including deferral of business tax credits, introduction of fees on for-profit health insurers and addition of an excise tax on opioid manufacturers and distributors.

The Democratic governor will negotiate with the leaders of the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-controlled Assembly to come up with a final state budget, which is due by April 1.