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Skelos blasts governor over funding issue

Skelos blasts governor over funding issue

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is blasting a proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that would allow the

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is blasting a proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that would allow the governor to reallocate funding approved by the Legislature.

Skelos says the Legislature is part of the government and the governor shouldn’t be able to simply divert funding after the top executive and lawmakers reach agreement on the state budget.

Cuomo is seeking the new power as part of his budget proposal. He says it’s needed for efficiency and to use state money in the wisest way.

Skelos, a Republican, says today the Democratic governor should simply come back to the Legislature when he wants to redirect allocated funds.

He says the Legislature must be part of that process.

The proposal was also criticized in a budget analysis by Democratic Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

Earlier, DiNapoli praised Cuomo’s proposal as a continued plan for fiscal restraint, but warned that the governor also wants to use the budget to grab power and reduce public oversight and accountability in the spending of billions of taxpayer dollars.

“It’s positive in that it builds on past progress,” DiNapoli said in an interview today. “The greatest vulnerability at this point is what’s happening with the economy, the slow recovery and what could be happening in Europe ... there are risks out there.”

The state’s top fiscal officer said his analysis of the proposal now being negotiated with the Legislature shows it would cut future deficits in half, to $7.4 billion through the 2015-16 fiscal year. That’s far smaller than recent deficits. A year ago, Cuomo and the Legislature closed a $10 billion gap, much of it caused by federal stimulus aid.

But DiNapoli also said Cuomo’s plan for 2012-13 would reduce transparency in how the public’s money is spent and consolidate more power under the governor. DiNapoli said his fellow Democrat wants to exempt agency contracts from the comptroller’s review, limiting a standard practice that provides better oversight and public disclosure.

Cuomo’s budget also would “dramatically increase” the governor’s power to move funds from one agency to another with less scrutiny and without regard for the original and publicly stated intent behind spending the money, DiNapoli said.

He said it’s always possible to strike the right balance between efficiency and accountability. He said state officials “should be very, very careful before we undercut some of that transparency.”

Cuomo’s budget director, Robert Megna, said in a statement that the budget requires state agencies to be more efficient. He said there is flexibility to “allow for a range of operational measures and ... improve functions such as procurement, real estate, and information technology.”

DiNapoli said Cuomo also would put $12.9 billion of his proposed $15 billion New York Works infrastructure program “off budget.” Off budget means borrowing and spending wouldn’t be subject to as much public disclosure or input by the Legislature.

“The passage of an on-time budget through an open, observable process is important,” according to the report released today. “But this progress should be accomplished without abandoning meaningful oversight, appropriate checks and balances, and adequate protection of public dollars.”

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