Groups urge lawmakers not to expand Hochul’s spending powers


(The Center Square) — Government watchdog groups are calling on New York lawmakers to reject Gov. Kathy Hochul’s push for “unilateral” borrowing and spending powers. 

  • By Christian Wade | The Center Square contributor
  • Mar 24, 2023
  • Republished with Permission: The Roosevelt Island Daily News

  • In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a coalition of groups urged lawmakers to strip provisions from the proposed state budget that they claim would give the governor “broad, unilateral spending and borrowing authorities that are unnecessary and fiscally risky.”

    The coalition, which includes Common Cause New York, Citizens Budget Commission and the Empire Center for Public Policy, said Hochul’s budget would remove competitive bidding requirements from many government spending appropriations and strip the state’s comptroller of pre-audit authority over executive branch spending. 

    “These proposed extraordinary powers are unnecessary and create significant fiscal risk,” the groups wrote.

    Besides the policy changes, the groups also urged lawmakers to reject a number of borrowing and spending proposals as proposed by the Hochul administration, including a $6 billion “Special Public Health Emergency Appropriation” requested as part of the executive budget. 

    Hochul filed her $227 million preliminary budget last month, which called for increasing state spending by 2.4%, or more than $5 billion, over the previous fiscal year’s budget. The Democrat’s spending plan included a number of controversial policy changes, such as bail reform, which have put her at odds with members of her own party.

    The wrangling over the executive branch’s borrowing and spending authority is reminiscent of a fight during the previous budget cycle, when New York lawmakers rejected similar proposals to expand the governor’s powers. 

    Last week, Assembly and Senate leaders rolled out their so-called “one-house” budget ahead of a March 31 deadline to approve the state’s spending plan for the next fiscal year.

    Both chambers rejected a number of Hochul’s proposals, including universal budget transfers, short-term borrowing authority and to curtail the comptroller’s oversight powers.

    But the coalition urged lawmakers to reject provisions added to other appropriations that remove competitive bidding requirements and the comptroller’s oversight.

    The groups pointed out that policies removing competitive bidding were approved in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, giving the governor “the authority and flexibility to manage a public health emergency and dire fiscal situation.” 

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