Biaggi fights against budget process


State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi has worked her way through a second state budget. And while acknowledging this year was much different than any year in the state’s history because of the coronavirus pandemic, the senator is not happy with how the whole process works.

“I have always been critical of the way New York state structures and passes the budget each year,” Biaggi said, in a release. “The budget process forces us to choose between our values when we should not have to, rigging the system to pit New Yorkers against one another: environmentalists against transit advocates, good government groups against low-wage workers, religious communities against advocates for criminal justice reform.

“I left my first budget experience as a legislator in 2019 feeling deeply disappointed in the process. And in 2020, I walk away feeling even worse.”

Biaggi, however, is ready to put her legislative power where the money is, joining colleagues Gustavo Rivera and James Skoufis as well as Assemblyman Richard Gottfried to introduce a bill that would amend the state’s constitution, giving the legislature an equal role with the governor in how the state budget is shaped.

That very constitution has given the governor extraordinary power over the budgeting process since 1927, Biaggi said. That allows the governor to be the “constructor” of the budget, while the legislature is relegated to nothing more than a “critic.”

The bill is designed to force the governor to clearly identify and separately state each legislative proposal in the budget. The legislature then can reduce, eliminate, add new items or even modify existing ones.

The governor would have the authority to veto any changes, but the legislature would have the power to override any veto.

The bill also is intended to allow the legislature to pass appropriations bills, even if they are not part of the governor’s budget.

“The unilateral control the executive branch holds over the state budget process undermines the constitutional duty of legislators to make thoughtful spending and policy choices on behalf of the New Yorkers we represent,” Biaggi said.