Friday, October 28, 2005

What is Proposition One?

With election day coming up, I haven't yet touched on Proposition 1 in a way I'm satisfied with. Let's take a swipe at this. Essentially, what Prop 1 is attempting to change is the budgeting process in a way that will both steer budget negotiations to conclusion while minimizing the economic impact of such a budget coming in late.

It slices, it dices...

NYPIRG supports Proposition 1 and they write a little about it here:

The vote on the budget reform amendment is less than two months away. NYPIRG, joined by our colleagues at Common Cause and the League of Women Voters, are urging the public to support the budget reform amendment (Proposal 1) and other proposals that are part of the package because it improves the state's budget process in three important areas:
•  Transparency. The proposal requires greater openness in the development of the Governor's executive budget.
•  Accountability. The proposal creates and independent budget office that will provide bipartisan fiscal analyses(sic).
•  Certainty. The proposal creates a “contingency budget” (essentially the previous year's budget with some exceptions). The contingency budget kicks in when there is no budget agreement by the beginning of the fiscal year. This provision guarantees that a budget will be in place if there is no agreement on a new budget by the beginning of the fiscal year.
It is the third issue listed above that has generated the most controversy. The proposal has been criticized as a “power grab” by the legislature at the expense of the executive branch and been derided as inevitably leading to “runaway spending” by irresponsible legislators.

It doesn't sound too bad. They go on to say that New York is out of alignment with 46 other states in the Union whose budgeting process is more concentrated in the Legislature. At heart, Proposition 1 really wants to do good. However, it seems like you need to take a lot of bad the good here.

The most obvious problem I have with this is, if there is a “contingency budget” in place, that kicks in during the event of a late budget, what on Earth is the motivation for lawmakers to get the budget in on time? That's just one flaw with the concept. It gets uglier.

From we get The Runaway Spending Amendment Homepage. You can go over there and cruise around it at you leisure. Marvel at their attempt to compile all the editorials that have come out against this proposition. Here's a nice summation of some points:
Does this sound like Budget Reform to you?
  • It does not require that the Legislature pass an on-time budget.

  • It gets rid of the requirement that lawmakers lose their paychecks when the budget is late.

  • And if the Legislature fails to pass an on-time budget, the Assembly and the Senate take control of the budget-writing process.

  • The Legislature has already added $12 billion to the budget in just 10 years. More budget power for the Legislature means more spending, which means more taxes. Is that what New York needs?

Which leads me to the one benefit of having the state executive ultimately responsible for the budget: you can blame him or her for it. Pissed at Albany overspending? Write the Governor. If it was the Senate and the Assembly? Good luck finding the guilty party. This kind of set-up gives those in the Legislature political cover for overspending. I can't fathom this will lead to lower spending and lowering the tax rate. I have a feeling that this concept will be going back to the drawing board after the election this November.

Additionally, I'd like to add how much I like NYPIRG. I think the organization and especially its members (politically active college kids) do some great things. We are just on different sides of an issue this time.

On the same subject, but in a lighter vein, WXXI has a good article concerning the Proposition 1 mascot, Porky.

No, it isn't the same guy from those movies in the '80s.


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