by Sen. James Seward
The 2016 legislative session is only just underway, but talk about a quick start.
In the first few days several significant pieces of legislation, which I co-sponsor, have already received senate approval.
The bills address education aid, state spending, and ethics reform; and their swift consideration and strong bipartisan support is proof that they are top priorities at the Capitol.
State Spending Cap
Over the last five years, we have produced five low- or no-growth on-time budgets that spend only what taxpayers can afford, while investing in education, road and bridge repair, and other initiatives that create new jobs.
The state senate has been a leader in ensuring fiscal responsibility when it comes to the state budget, however, there is no guarantee that a change in spending philosophy won’t occur in the future.
The way to ensure continued spending restraint is to enact a permanent state spending cap.
The senate, on multiple occasions, has passed legislation that would make this voluntary budgeting practice law; however, the assembly has failed to follow suit.
Once again this year, the senate is embracing the spending cap, passing senate bill 5507.
The measure would limit state spending to a three-year rolling average of inflation.
This approach would help end the historic pattern of “boom and bust” cycle budgeting, impose greater fiscal discipline on state government, and continue providing significant savings for taxpayers.
The self-imposed cap has saved taxpayers nearly $23 billion on a cumulative basis since the 2010-2011 budget, including the elimination of a $10 billion deficit.
New York State is now on much stronger fiscal footing and this bill would ensure that fiscal restraint will continue—permanently.
Term Limits for
With the arrest and conviction of two top legislative leaders in 2015 on corruption charges, ethics reform will be front and center in Albany this year.
Already, the senate has taken action on legislation aimed at confronting this key issue.
Senate bill 2722B would set into law eight-year term limits for leadership positions in the senate and assembly.
This bill is consistent with what is already in place in senate rules and also limits the number of years a legislator can serve as a committee chair or party leader.
This measure helps ensure that new leadership styles and ideas are regularly introduced.
It also prevents individuals from becoming entrenched in a position of power.
I am proud to have helped bring this concept forward as part of the senate rules, and feel it makes a great deal of sense to make leadership term limits a permanent part of state law.
Ending the GEA
Since 2010, schools across New York have been losing money to a financial scheme known as the Gap Elimination Adjust-ment (GEA), which has withheld millions of dollars of promised state aid.
I voted against the GEA and have been working to make the state repay our schools ever since. So far, 85 percent of the original cut has been restored.
Senate bill 6377 makes crystal clear my position (and the senate’s) that the remainder of the GEA must be zeroed out this year. Along with repaying the rest of the GEA, I will continue to fight for increases in operating aid and foundation aid—other sources of state funding that are vitally important to our area schools.
There is a great deal of work to be done in Albany this year.
Advancing these three measures in the opening days of the legislative session helps set the tone and pave the way for the months ahead.