Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he is sticking to his promise not to sign a state budget that doesn't include his demands for ethics reform. He has also tied changes in education policy to this year's negotiations. With so many conditions attached to the next budget it's more important than ever for the process leading up to an eventual deal to be transparent. But the way things seem to be going are the way they've always gone.
Sheldon Silver has been replaced by Carl Heastie as the Assembly's point person, and Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein is apparently involved in some of the back-room negotiations, but four men in the room rather than the usual three still leaves more than 200 lawmakers — and the millions of New Yorkers — unaware of what might be transpiring.
Following four consecutive on-time budgets, Cuomo has indicated that the April 1 deadline might be a bit flexible this time around as he digs in his heels for a showdown over his pet projects.
But it's not the deadline itself that's most important here. More than four people in New York state need to be aware of any changes to education policy or ethics rules, among others, before they are signed into law. To pass the budget and then tell everyone what it contains is contrary to the way in which our government was meant to operate.
The yearly mad scramble to pass a budget needs to stop. Members of the Legislature must be given time to digest the bills so that they can be debated and edited before they're approved. And the public needs to be aware of what might be coming so they can weigh in, as well.
Still, what we expect to see happen next week is more of the same from Albany — a last-minute announcement that a handshake deal has been made between the governor and legislative leaders. Rank-and-file members of the Legislature and the general public will then have to wait around for the massive budget bills to be printed so that they can be voted on.
If the past repeats itself next week, all we'll be left with is bullet-point announcements that leave out specifics. This backward process being maintained by a supposedly progressive state becomes more outrageous every time it occurs. We're still waiting for it to come to an end.