Editor’s Note: This is an editorial column authored by Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay.
New York state’s local libraries are institutions that provide educational materials, meeting spaces, internet and computer access and a sense of community to their patrons. They are invaluable. Yet, Gov. Cuomo’s executive budget reduces their aid by $5 million and slashes construction aid grants by $20 million. This is a dangerous proposition that makes little sense and has become an annual negotiating tactic.
To put the second number in perspective, the $20 million cut is more than the entire construction budget he is proposing to keep, which he proposes should be only $14 million in total. Library construction grants are critical resources available to public libraries for the acquisition, rehabilitation, renovation or construction of library buildings. They are the lifeblood of the library system and help ensure literacy rates and academic metrics in New York can keep pace with the rest of the nation.
Sadly, it is not uncommon for Gov. Cuomo to nickel-and-dime away important funding in order to exert greater control over the budget process. Much like the $6 million in veterans’ program funding the governor has cut out of his budget proposal, these are relatively small amounts of money when put up against the $178 billion New York will likely spend this year.
These funds are extremely important to the individuals who rely on them, yet they represent a drop in the bucket compared the enormity of our state’s budget. Gov. Cuomo’s proposed library cuts will do next to nothing to fix New York’s massive deficit and its unsustainable spending. He knows this. These cuts are a calculated distraction to mask the real problems we must mitigate, like out-of-control Medicaid costs and the state’s $57 billion debt.
The Assembly Minority Conference is well aware of New York’s budgetary shortcomings, many of which are self-inflicted. Too much money is spent and taxpayers get too little in return. New York state’s operating expenses are wasteful and funds are too frequently misallocated. For example: audits have found millions in erroneous Medicaid payments going out the door. In addition, the governor spends billions on his economic-development pet projects, with often questionable results. Stripping $5 million from our library system is a terrible place to try to make up for past failures.
These cuts cannot be included in the final, enacted budget. If they are, we will be sending a terrible message to the people of New York, especially our children.
If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185. You may also find me, Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, on Facebook.