A coalition of 39 progressive organizations on Tuesday urged state lawmakers to approve first passage of a measure meant to close a power imbalance between the Legislature and governor during the budget-making process.
"Separation of powers and checks and balances are fundamental to our democracy," the groups wrote in a letter sent to top-ranking lawmakers in the state Senae and Assembly. "For too long, the budget process in New York State has been lopsided, giving the executive branch virtually unlimited power to dictate appropriations, as well as to force enactment of legislation it favors through the state budget."
The move would require an amendment to the state constitution, a process that involves it being approved twice by separately elected sessoins of the Legislature and then put before voters in a referendum.
The amendment would address how the state's budget is drawn up, arguably the most important document considered by members of the state Senate and Assembly as well as the governor.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in particular, has been adept at using budgetary powers to largely get the spending plans he wants in place, often by the start of the state's April 1 fiscal year. But this has frustrated progressives over the two and a half terms of Cuomo's time in office as they have sought more spending for education and health care.
Typically lawmakers introduce non-binding budget resolutions that lay out their priorities, but often carry little weight in the final product.
This year progressives feel added urgency given the coronavirus pandemic is likely to lead to deep cuts for schools, health care and local governments due tax revenue have largely evaporated.
And once again the groups are seeking higher taxes on the rich to make up the difference, something Cuomo has been reluctant to back.
"The shock to life in New York State from the current pandemic has been unprecedented, and recovery will be long and difficult in terms of public health, economic health and the welfare of New Yorkers," the letter states.
"The adoption of an austerity budget three months ago was exactly the wrong prescription for recovery, and already we are facing new budget cuts to state and local programs that we all rely on to maintain a civilized society."