In November, I sent a letter to Governor Paterson including the Assembly Republican Conference's proposals to address New York’s fiscal crisis. They are listed below:
- Eliminate Member Items: There is approximately $200 million per year allocated for Member Items for the Legislature and Governor. Elected officials in State government should lead by example and cut the pork;
- Collect sales taxes on Native American lands: New York State needs to enforce the law and collect taxes from purchases made on Native American lands. It is estimated that doing so would generate over $1 billion annually;
- “Sweep” fund balances: To enhance transparency of the budget process, we propose State Agencies provide timely notification – when projects or lines in the State budget are completed – if a fund balance exists, or when a shortfall in funding has occurred. This will allow us to identify any unused or residual taxpayer monies;
- Freeze State employee hiring: To increase State efficiencies and reduce costs, we should continue to support a hard hiring freeze of all State employees;
- Suspend State employee travel: As another method of increasing State efficiencies, all employee travel should be suspended, except for health and safety purposes, until this current financial crisis is resolved;
- Suspend State vehicle purchases: The State should suspend the purchase of new State vehicles, except for health and safely purposes. This could save taxpayers over $500,000 annually;
- Merge State Agencies: Merging the Insurance and Banking Departments into the Office of Financial Services; the Consumer Protection Board with the Department of Law; the Crime Victims Board with the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and the Racing Reform Program into Racing and Wagering could save nearly $9.8 million;
- Enact a 15% Non-Personal Service (NPS) cut: A 15 percent reduction in all General Fund Non-Personal Service appropriations in every State agency, board, office or department, should be made. This reduction does not seek to eliminate any State workforce jobs. But it would reduce State spending by $416 million;
- Implement the “State Agency Fiscal Efficiency” (S.A.F.E.) Program: This initiative would empower State Agencies to temporarily transition to a four-day work week, where employees would take one day off without pay. Discussion with labor leaders would be necessary. The program would be voluntary;
- Eliminate Reappropriations: After five fiscal years, all cash reappropriations should be eliminated, except for capital projects. If an organization can’t spend all of its appropriated funding within five years of it being provided, those funds should be eliminated; and
- Eliminate “Ghost Ship” Commissions: Our Conference established a W.A.S.T.E. (Waste At State Taxpayer’s Expense) Taskforce, to identify all the State Commissions that still receive State funding even though they have finished their assigned task or are no longer relevant. Eliminating these Commissions would save taxpayers hundreds of thousands, if not more. We all understand Commission members can make a case to continue, but our economic condition must take precedence.
Certainly, this list is by no means exhaustive. Nevertheless, these proposals can serve as a starting point for our continued deliberations as we face one of the most challenging budget cycles in recent memory.
I am confident that if we can set politics aside and move toward bi-partisan solutions, we will ensure our state emerges from the current crisis stronger than ever. Our Assembly Republican Conference is ready, willing and able to meet this challenge by returning fiscal responsibility to state government and, in the process, guaranteeing a better and brighter future for all New Yorkers.