OPINION

YOUR TURN/Sen. Tom O'Mara: 'A billion reminders of what’s missing in state government'

N.Y. State Senator Tom O'Mara

It’s expected that a new state budget will be adopted by the end of this week – and that this new budget will be the state’s largest-ever spending plan.  

N.Y. State Senator Tom O'Mara

New York’s current budget exceeded the $200-billion mark for the first time.  In late January, Governor Hochul unveiled a proposed 2022-2023 Executive Budget to increase the current budget to $216 billion. Following negotiations with the big-spending Democrat majorities in the Legislature – each of whom recently put forth “one-house” budget resolutions that would push this year’s final budget even higher to somewhere in the neighborhood of $225 billion – the upcoming budget is about to soar into the stratosphere of state budgets now and well into the future.  

As I’ve noted previously in this column, New York’s budget already rivals the size of the Florida and Texas state budgets combined – even though each of those states has a greater population and is growing while New York State has a continuing exodus of residents and families because they simply can’t afford to live here anymore. 

The new state budget will address a number of priorities in important ways.  There will be things in it to everyone’s liking.  How couldn’t there be in a budget of this size? 

That’s not the point. It’s the recklessness of the spending -- its lack of restraint or sustainability -- that raises the reddest of red flags.   

It is going to send state government spending commitments, short- and long-term, off in a direction that will wind up keeping New York’s state and local taxpayers on the hook well into the future – particularly in a state already ranked the least affordable in the nation, with one of America’s heaviest tax and regulatory burdens, and with a national and global economic outlook that’s uncertain, at best. 

Keep in mind that a great deal of the new spending is the result of a one-time influx of federal pandemic relief aid.  These federal dollars are going to be here and then they’ll be gone – and the state will be left to figure out how to make up that shortfall in the future.  

Bottom line: This new state budget will address fundamental challenges and commitments that most of us can agree on – but it will also chart a course for New York that will likely leave a future generation of state and local taxpayers footing the bill for a questionable, unsustainable, and unwarranted agenda of overspending. 

My Senate Republican colleagues and I were concerned about Governor Hochul’s out-of-control state spending plan when she proposed it in January.  We warned that the Legislature’s Democrat majorities would be looking to go even higher, and they are.   

The spending spree they are about to unleash will be unsustainable. It doesn’t respond to the crisis of affordability for everyday New York families, taxpayers, and workers. It won’t stop the exodus of New Yorkers fleeing to lower-taxed, less expensive states. It risks further devastating already hard-hit state and local economies. 

The stage is set for a final state budget this year that will significantly increase short- and long-term state government spending, add billions of dollars to a state debt burden that is already one of the nation’s highest, and risk additional long-term costs (i.e., higher taxes) for already overburdened counties and local property taxpayers. 

Governor Hochul and the Legislature’s Democrat majorities will focus on unrestrained state spending instead of providing broad-based tax relief to spark job creation and economic growth, tackling unfunded state mandates on localities to ease the burden on local property taxpayers, reducing New York’s long-term debt load, or aggressively bolstering the state’s “rainy day” reserve funds in the face of an unsettling economy and a time of historic inflation.   

The direction that Governor Hochul and Albany Democrats are laying out for the future of New York could spell even harder times ahead for state and local taxpayers, small businesses and manufacturers, and already hard-pressed upstate communities, economies, and workers.  

New York remains one of the highest-taxed states in America. We are one of the most overregulated states in the country. Our local governments and local property taxpayers continue to shoulder one of the nation’s heaviest burdens of unfunded state mandates.  

It’s troubling that Governor Hochul and top legislative Albany Democrats will keep pushing state government spending higher and higher at a time when the priority should be a long-term, steady, sustainable future for upstate, middle-class communities, families, workers, and taxpayers. 

In its aftermath, the new state budget will serve to highlight what’s missing most of all in a state government entirely under one-party, so-called “progressive” control: a genuine, no-backing-down commitment to lower taxes, less regulation, greater accountability, economic growth, job creation, and more common sense on state fiscal practices. 

New York State Senator Tom O'Mara represents the 58th District, which includes Yates, Steuben, Schuyler and Chemung counties and a portion of Tompkins County.