“Clean Budget Bill” aims to keep policymaking out of state budget process

Photo courtesy of the New York State Assembly

Senator Jen Metzger, D-Rosendale, has introduced a bill that would end the practice of passing substantive legislation as part of the annual budget. 

The “Clean Budget” bill (S8212), introduced on April 17, would amend the New York State Constitution to clarify that legislation may be included in the state budget only if it is necessary to implement the various appropriations and expenditures contained in the budget bills.

Metzger said legislation that proceeds through the committee process, and is voted on and discussed publicly, holds legislators accountable and forces transparency between government officials and those affected by the laws and policies.

“Passing legislation as part of the budget has been the routine for a long time, and it’s not good government,” Metzger said. “To better ensure transparency and accountability in law-making, the people of New York State should know where their elected representatives stand on individual bills.”

The governor has constitutional authority to introduce legislation as part of the budget process, and as a result, the annual state budget typically includes new laws and policy that are not related to the budget.

For example, the 2020-2021, approved in early April, prohibits gender pricing discrimination, made changes to criminal justice reforms passed in the 2019-20 state budget and bans gun ownership for those who commit serious offenses in other states, to name a few.

Metzger’s bill, which does not yet have an Assembly companion, states that “any legislation proposed by the governor in the budget process must be directly necessary to provide moneys for proposed expenditures; the governor shall include a detailed explanation of the fiscal necessity of each such legislation; and the Legislature shall reject and shall not include any legislation that is not directly necessary to provide moneys and revenue sufficient to meet such proposed expenditures.”

“New Yorkers are better served when legislation proceeds through the regular legislative process, where bills are introduced, reviewed, vetted, amended, and voted on in a transparent and accountable manner,” Metzger writes in her justification for the bill.

Metzger, in a piece written for the Times-Herald Record, also noted that keeping non-budgetary legislation out of the budget will reduce the chance of rushed decisions and better ensure that legislation gets the proper consideration it deserves before becoming law. 

“While I support many of the legislative initiatives in the budget – indeed, several of my own bills appeared in the proposed Executive Budget in some form – our government should not work this way. It short-circuits the legislative process and obscures the roles of the governor and Legislature,” Metzger wrote.