Budget Process Once Again Reveals the Outsized Influence of Big Money Donors in Albany

Albany, NY—In response to today’s passage of the New York State Budget, Jessica Wisneski, Co-Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York, has issued the following statement:

“People elected a new legislature with a desire to change the way business is done in Albany and pass legislation that for decades had been bottled up by Senate Republicans. This budget process confirmed that big money interests and corporate lobbyists have far too much power in the halls of the Capitol.

“We saw with the defeat of the pied-a-terre tax that the profits of the super rich still come before the needs of children and struggling families. The $618 million increase in Foundation Aid falls well short of the $1.2 billion in the Senate and Assembly budget proposals, and far short of what our children need. Black, Brown, and low-income children have waited long enough for equitable funding, and taxing the luxury penthouses of the super rich was a common sense way to close the gap.

“Our grassroots communities fought tooth-and-nail for long overdue reforms to New York’s pretrial system and campaign finance laws. The reforms we won on bail, discovery, and speedy trial represent an important step toward ending the crisis of mass incarceration. We beat back the District Attorneys Association, whose lobbying efforts threatened to derail reform. As a result of the new discovery law, defendants are no longer ‘blindfolded’ and the scales of justice are better balanced. Beginning next year, tens of thousands of legally innocent New Yorkers will be granted pretrial liberty—without having to pay for it. However, this victory with be incomplete until New York makes good on its promise to fully eliminate money bail.

“We expected the leaders of our ‘Triple Blue’ state to put people before politics during budget negotiations. But powerful special interests continue to wield enormous influence behind the scenes. The urgent need for small donor public financing was reaffirmed every step of the way. Forming a commission to work out the details of the program—a program New Yorkers have been demanding for well over a decade—is a clear attempt to punt on real campaign finance and create a backdoor to attack fusion and weaken the Working Families Party.

“It’s possible that this commission can create a successful program. We’ve laid out the roadmap for months. The leaders affirmed the goals in their language. Now everything comes down to who gets appointed to the commission and whether the legislature keeps up the pressure to get it done. If it doesn’t, the fault will lie with the Governor and Assembly for not coming through on their long-standing commitment to public financing.”