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EDITORIAL: Government goes on; pay attention

EDITORIAL: Government goes on; pay attention

It's easy to be distracted by the coronavirus crisis, but don't let it stop you from being an active citizen

If you watch the TV news or read any newspaper, it’s almost easy to forget that anything his happening in the world right now besides the coronavirus.

Given the generational impact of this outbreak on our health, the economy and our overall way of life, it should be at the forefront of our thoughts and actions.

If you’re in danger of losing your job, or if you or a loved one is sick, or if your kids are home from school for a month, or if you’re having trouble feeding your family or paying the rent, then the coronavirus is certainly all you should be dealing with.

But for the rest of us, those of us for whom the outbreak is more of an inconvenience than a personal hardship, we need to be cognizant that important matters are being addressed by government that can’t be overlooked.

State lawmakers, perhaps this week, are poised to rush through a new state budget. That budget is now going to have to be adjusted to deal with a projected $4 billion to $7 billion loss in revenue due to the coronavirus, on top of an existing $6.5 billion deficit.

So why should you care? Because if the Legislature has to close a $10 billion or $13 billion budget gap, it’s going to have to spend less money than it anticipated in order to make the books balance.

If you don’t want them to whack local school aid or to push a greater share of local Medicaid costs onto local counties or to raise other taxes to make up for the revenue reduction, then you’re going to have to take it upon yourself to share your views with your state lawmakers. Not later. Now.

And while you’re distracted setting up your home office or finding daycare for your kids, the governor and Legislature might try to rush through a bill legalizing recreational marijuana or modify the new bail reform laws as hastily as they passed them last year. 

If you care about matters related to the state budget, you need to speak up.

And it’s not just the state that’s moving ahead with business as usual in the crisis. 

Locally, for instance, the Niskayuna school district is preparing to present residents with options for its school buildings that could cost taxpayers up to $70 million.

Since residents may not be able to attend meetings in person for the near future, they will need to seek out other ways to get information, hold school officials accountable and get their voices heard.

Right now, all area school boards are working on their budgets for the next year. And as we speak, other local government bodies are weighing development projects, discussing policies and spending your tax money.

If you’ve checked out because of the coronavirus outbreak, they might do things you might not be aware of or might not approve of.

The coronavirus outbreak is like nothing any of us have seen in our lifetimes. And we have to deal with it.

But in the meantime, life goes on.

And we can’t afford to stop paying attention.

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