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Friday, April 3, 2015

Jane Corwin
Assemblywoman Jane Corwin issued a statement this afternoon deriding both the New York State budget process and the 2015-2016 budget itself.

The Republican from Clarence called the budget process "broken," noting how little time legislators had to read the budget before the midnight deadline. She also said the budget was actually passed three hours past that deadline, despite the governor referring to is his "fifth on-time budget."

Corwin also issued a statement Wednesday calling the budget process "disappointing" and lamenting the "three men in a room" strategy still used to create fiscal policy.

Corwin's statement from this afternoon follows in its entirety.
While the media and the governor’s “spin” shop continue to debate whether or not the governor can claim a “fifth on-time budget” (for the record, it was technically three hours late), the more troublesome story that deserves coverage is the broken process by which state budgets continue to be negotiated and passed.

Budget negotiations began with optimism this year, in large part because of a new Assembly Speaker who promised to “bring sunlight to the Capitol, [and to] democratize our legislative process.” Governor Cuomo as well renewed his vow to pass the most comprehensive ethics reform package in the nation.

Mere hours before the budget’s April 1 deadline, vital components of the budget remained unseen by the public or rank-and-file legislators. Minority conferences in both houses were not consulted at any point during budget negotiations and the process relied on secretive, last-minute deals – completely disregarding our democratic process.

Bill Mahoney, a /Capital New York/ Albany Bureau Reporter, captured this irresponsibility by stating that, “…[members] who hoped to read the budget bills introduced before session would have needed to read 341 pages of legalese per hour,” to have read what they were voting on.

This is not transparency, openness or accountability. Furthermore, my colleagues in the Assembly Minority and I introduced 17 comprehensive reforms <> in early March and called for immediate votes on these long-standing, well-supported and common-sense proposals. Each one was voted down.

The ethics “reforms” included in this budget add insult to injury, balking at yet another opportunity to reform this broken process. While elected officials must now disclose slightly more information regarding their outside income than before, and pensions could be revoked for criminally-guilty officials (if this measure passes a constitutional amendment), these reforms still do very little to address the vast majority of scandals that have engulfed Albany for decades.

While Governor Cuomo claims these reforms are “transformative” and “groundbreaking” the irony of his rhetoric is that this budget was crafted through the same process that he has called the most “dysfunctional” in the nation, just a few short years ago.

Along with these weak ethics reforms, the budget included many policies that greatly impact our schools. Though I support the school funding increase, as well as the restoration of $603 million to the Gap Elimination Adjustment, I am concerned about the state encroaching on educators’ ability to teach.

I believe in local control of education. Administrators have the responsibility and must have the ability to determine the impact an educator is having on their students. Educating is not quantifiable by a single determining factor. Testing is an important tool and should be utilized, but a cookie cutter approach to education suppresses individuality and personal achievement. Classroom dynamics and a student’s personal situation cannot be measured by a test.

As we continue to review this budget and understand its impact on our community, I will continue fighting to protect our schools – and taxpayers – from paying for the mistakes, and dare I say arrogance, of a few men closed off in a room in the State Capitol.

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