ALBANY — With the state budget process reaching crunch time, Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, called for more transparency in a press conference at the state Capitol Wednesday morning.
As the April 1 deadline to pass the 2023-2024 state budget approaches on Saturday, Tedisco unveiled the NYS Budget Transparency Act on Wednesday, a proposed bill to curb the practice of all-night budget votes by stopping the clock on all legislative proceeding in the Capitol between midnight and 8 a.m.
“We shouldn’t be working in the middle of the night when the fourth estate can’t be there,” Tedisco said during the press event. “There’s a total lack of transparency where people are sleeping during the most important part of our representative democracy, the people who need our attention. It [the budget] shouldn’t be brought in when we don’t have time to read the budget, digest it and really debate it.”
The proposed legislation would limit the use of Messages of Necessity, the apparatus used by New York governors which allows legislation to circumvent the law in the state Constitution that stipulates that proposed bills must age for three days before receiving a vote, allowing representatives and the public to view them before they are voted on.
Tedisco, who acknowledged that governors in both parties have utilized the practice over the last three decades, said use of the maneuver should be limited. His proposed bill would require a two-thirds majority in each state chamber to take up a proposed Message of Necessity.
“We do need a Message of Necessity on occasion, but it’s for an emergency,” Tedisco said. “It’s for a weather condition where the health and safety of our constituents is in danger, an attack on our sovereignty, a terrorist attack on our government or a financial problem that needs immediate attention.”
With the budget deadline arriving at midnight on Saturday, Tedisco said he fully expects the budget to be late.
Last year’s $220 billion state spending plan passed on April 9, after Hochul issued a Message of Necessity allowing the bills to move to the floor of the Senate or Assembly in short order.
“If we look at history, it’s going to be done partially, if not wholly, in the middle of the night if they don’t follow our request,” Tedisco said. “It’s going to be done with Messages of Necessity no matter what day they get it together. It’s probably going to happen that day. If you send out that message, nobody in the state of New York will think that’s an April Fool’s joke.”
In February, Gov. Kathy Hochul released a $227 billion 2023-2024 state budget proposal. The state Assembly subsequently unveiled a proposed $233 billion plan and the state Senate released a $236 billion proposal.
Tedisco said on Wednesday that he cannot support any of the three proposals as currently constituted.
“I’ve seen all three of them and I wouldn’t vote for any of the three of them,” he said following the press conference. “If they improve that collectively, but they’ve had enough time to get it done. The worst words you can hear in the English lexicon are, ‘It’s always been done that way.’ We think it’s time for some transparency. We want to make that case and I think our constituents are concerned about that too.”
Tedisco said the two issues he most frequently hears about from constituents are public safety and affordability of living in the state, which he said are not adequately addressed in the proposed budgets.
Tedisco acknowledged that the Republican budget transparency bill was unlikely to pass in the days before the weekend deadline. The senator said he first introduced the proposal in 2014 during his tenure in the state Assembly.
“It’s going to be a very difficult lift with the control they [Democrats] have in both houses,” he said. “We understand that, but we have to do what we have to do to get that transparency.”
Bill co-sponsor Sen. Steve Rhoads, R-Massapequa, said during the Wednesday event that the proposed legislation would bring increased transparency to the state’s legislative process.
“Time and time again, under the cover of darkness, the governor and majorities in the New York State Senate and Assembly have cooked up a budget that fails to deliver meaningful tax relief to residents currently struggling with sky-high inflation or safer communities for the taxpayers of New York,” Rhoads said.
Contact Ted Remsnyder at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @TedRemsnyder.
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