Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Yesterday, the day 3000 pages of budget bills hit state legislators’ desks in advance of a vote scheduled for only 48 hours later, the Times ran a story on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's unprecedented power in
It will take more than one or two individuals to loosen the Speaker's 15-year grip on the legislative process; the legislature needs the weight of an entire chamber to act as a countervailing force. A robust committee process, regular and substantive legislative analysis, and rules that protect the voices of rank-and-file members can all help ensure that the locus of power in the legislature lies with the body of representatives elected by
Now back to those budget bills. Speaker Silver has often touted the punctuality of his budgets, arguing that open budget negotiations might get in the way of meeting the state deadline. Looking around the country during budget season, it’s clear that this is a false tradeoff.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Yesterday, the Times ran a story with the ignominious headline, “Math Appears Faulty in Senate MTA Plan.”
It does indeed.
The problem, as it turns out, is twofold: first, the plan added the cost of buses to be subsidized by the payroll tax to the MTA’s income, rather than removing the cost from the balance sheet; and second, the plan accounted for four quarters of payroll tax revenue in 2010, even though it will only have access to three quarters of tax revenue (fourth quarter payroll taxes are not available until the following year).
Both are easy enough mistakes to make, but this is exactly why the Senate rules require a fiscal note prepared by a Budget Division analyst to be attached to any bill before the bill is reported from committee. As we wrote in our most recent report, bill sponsors do not always submit fiscal notes when they should and the quality of the notes is highly variable.
We have yet to see the legislation that would enact the Senate Majority proposal, and when we do, the mathematical errors will in all likelihood be corrected. But given the March 25th deadline for the legislature to pass a rescue plan, it’s frightening to think about how close the Senate may have come to swiftly ushering a deeply flawed bill through the legislative process.
Rules - as they say - are there for a reason, and when the legislature is operating under a tight timeframe, the Senate’s own rules may prove more important than ever.