Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How To Save $4.3 Billion

NOW The Governor Wants To Know What We Think!

Shortly after his election, then Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer asked New Yorkers for their ideas and their advice. [The link for submission of ideas no longer exists. Perhaps that's where the Governor went wrong on Day One!]

They gave the Governor guidance by the bulk e-mail full. Unfortunately, Mr. Spitzer didn't take it!

At The Community Alliance, we offered the new Gov some sage wisdom as well: (1) Make friends, not enemies; (2) Be a diplomat, not a sheriff; (3) Surround yourself by people with the right stuff, listen to what they have to say, and, every once in a while, take their advice.

He didn't listen to us, either.

As a budget gap of some $4.3 billion looms in Albany, the Governor is asking, once again, for the advice of Empire State residents on just how to close the distance between balance and deficit. [Unless the State is the MTA -- an entity all to, and all for itself -- don't look for a surplus to be pulled out of a hat!]

You can e-mail the folks at the Budget Director's office at Operators are standing by. We're sure they'd love to hear your ideas for saving the State money.

Anyway. How to eliminate a $4.3 billion dollar budget gap? Hmmm.

As Steve Martin would say, "First, find $4.3 billion dollars." [How does the State lose $4.3 BILLION? Did they gamble it away at the Indian casinos? Didn't their mothers teach them, "If you don't have it, you can't spend it?"]

Okay. Okay. Ideas. . .

How about we go after those member items the Senators and Assemblymembers dole out to local favs each year. [They're not in the budget, but they should be.]

Oh, you can keep the pork for the "public" good in there (save the bridges to nowhere). Just axe the "private" handouts that go to, say, fix a Sons of Italy post in Yonkers, or to restore the facade of a cathedral in Albany.

That should be a few million dollars right there.

Next, consolidate -- or just do away with -- some of those 800+ public authorities, which operate on taxpayer money, behind closed doors, and with little or, in many instances, absolutely no oversight -- legislative or otherwise.

Take a look at the 860 public authorities listed on the State Comptroller's website.

We're certain you can come up with at least a dozen that are expendable, saving countless millions. [Do we really need an Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund? And what exactly does the Industrial Exhibit Authority do?]

We're sure that similar cost-saving measures can be taken at the multitude of State agencies -- without sacrifice to those who actually serve the public good, rather than no good at all.

Even the best can be pared down, and still be efficient. Here's a list. Have a go at it! [For starters, we'd take a whack at the Bridge Authority (how many of those do we need, for goodness sake?), the Employee Assistance Program (fend for yourselves, like the rest of us), the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Commission (is there really such a thing?), and the Commission on Lobbying (is this a club where all the lobbyists go for lunch? Last we heard, the lobbyists were doing a fine job taking care of their own interests without a commission, thank you).

Surely, the fat trimmed and the excesses curbed, there's a few million dollars more to be saved in Albany. [And tell us, what's with Corcraft Products (Dept. of Correctional Services, Division of Industries) being on the Agency list? Are they the official vendor for bunk beds and cleaning supplies for New York's penal institutions and state colleges? Whatever happened to competitive bidding? Or is New York in the furniture business now?]

Okay. We've barely saved a billion dollars, let alone 4.3.

Still, with your help, New Yorkers -- a snip, snip here, and a chop, chop there -- we have faith that the budget gap can not only be closed, but there will be a few dollars left over for the State to mail income tax forms and instructions to each and every one of us come January 2nd.

By the way -- How can a budget hearing be "closed out?" No one even knew it was scheduled. And since when does anyone attend public hearings? [Especially those scheduled on a Friday, between 10 AM and 1 PM, in Hauppauge, no less!] Must be one of those "by invitation only" public hearings, where the few get to speak for the many.
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Click HERE for the testimony from the November 17th Hearing held in Buffalo.

Click HERE for the testimony from the November 17th Hearing held in Rochester.

[We didn't see too much in the way of testimony from John Q. Public on either of those lists. In fact, none at all. Funny (or not so). These are the very people the Governor and the Budget Director should be listening to!]
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Spitzer wants your ideas on closing $4.3 billion budget gap

ALBANY -- Gov. Eliot Spitzer wants your ideas on Friday about how to close the projected $4.3 billion gap in next year's budget, along with spending priorities.

Budget director Paul Francis will hold a "town hall meeting" from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the H. Lee Dennison County Office Building, 100 Veterans Memorial Highway in Hauppauge. The public session can also be viewed on the Internet at

All the speaking slots have been filled. But a spokesman said residents were welcome to attend the hearing and to e-mail their suggestions to The comments will be reviewed by budget analysts and posted online, he said.

Friday's meeting, the only one scheduled for Long Island, is among a series being held in advance of Spitzer's presentation in January of his budget proposals for 2008-09.

Francis said, "With troubles on Wall Street leading to decreases in projected revenues, we need to find ways to do more with less. That means engaging the public as we determine our priorities for how to best use the state's limited financial resources, while minimizing the burden on taxpayers and keeping our business climate competitive."

Copyright © 2007, Newsday Inc.

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