Editor’s Note: The following is a republished column written by Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay.
Correcting New York’s massive budget shortfall is going to take a thoughtful, concerted effort that features a combination of eliminating wasteful spending, securing federal aid and an emphasis on common-sense prioritizing. The Assembly Minority Conference has always advocated for responsible budgeting, but now more than ever we cannot afford to revert to old spending habits as the economic impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt in New York and beyond.
We have our work cut out for us. A recent report from the American Legislative Exchange Council ranks New York dead last in economic outlook, largely due to its tax structure and outstanding debts. This is especially troubling as states are scrambling to secure limited federal recovery resources. If we continue to put ourselves at an economic disadvantage it’s going to be that much harder to overcome the fallout from the pandemic.
Budget shortfalls are projected to be in the tens of billions of dollars in coming years. At present, there is little clarity about how much federal funding is available or if money might be released to states and localities. It is incumbent on legislators, the governor and New York’s Congressional representatives to work together with the federal government to ensure any available funding is secured and administered effectively.
It is also extremely important that any recovery efforts do not put the burden on state taxpayers and businesses already on the brink of catastrophe. In tough financial times, New York Democrats have typically sought to tax their way out of budget shortfalls. Even prior to the economic collapse resulting from the COVID-19 crisis, New York state was facing a $7 billion budget hole. Any potential boost from a robust national economy was squandered by out-of-control spending and costly budget gimmicks concocted under One-Party-Rule.
We can’t go back to that formula.
Doing so would result in more harm than good. Unshackle Upstate recently released a checklist of reforms that would go a long way toward helping small businesses, residents and localities come out of this economic crisis solvent. Among those items, many of which we have long-supported, are reducing income, corporate and sales tax rates, and eliminating regulatory burdens that hurt job-creators and stifle economic growth.
It is clear there is much work to do, but our primary focus should be on the factors under our own control. With Washington D.C. in a virtual deadlock on another COVID relief package, we have to start by paring down our budget and focusing on only what is absolutely needed. The only way New York will make it through this crisis — and years-long recovery effort — is with strong, unwavering leadership. Its representatives must collaborate to deliver on these solutions and that cooperative effort needs to start right now. My colleagues and I stand ready, willing and able to get to work.