Senator Tedisco: Nothing good happens at the state Capitol after midnight

Legislative Gazette file photo

Sen. James Tedisco, R-Glenville, is calling for a moratorium on budget debates and budget bill voting after midnight as a way to increase transparency in the already murky budget process.

“For weeks now, my Senate Republican conference and I have been standing ready to work on this budget while the governor and [Democratic] majorities have dawdled,” Tedisco said. “They have made the budget seven days late and now they’re talking about passing 11 budget bills without the three-day constitutionally required period of evaluation. So much for Gov. [Kathy] Hochul’s promises of ushering in a new age of transparency and openness. 

“I’m calling on my colleagues today to work morning to night to get the job done of passing a fiscally responsible budget, but let’s not substitute political expediency for transparency because it’s been shown time after time that nothing good can happen for taxpayers when the Legislature is in session at the New York State Capitol after midnight.”

Gov. Hochul announced Thursday evening there was a conceptual agreement on some of the major parts of the 2023 fiscal year budget. But it is unclear when budget bills will be introduced for debate and voting.

“Sunlight is the best antiseptic,” said Tedisco. “The Fourth Estate and the most important part of our representative democracy, the voters, shouldn’t wake up with nightmares as their state government passed the largest spending plan in the history of New York State in the dead of night.

“The Fourth Estate and the public should fully be there to document this budget debate and vote.”

Hochul on Thursday said the $220 billion state budget will include tax relief for middle-class New Yorkers and small businesses; a suspension of the state fuel tax to counter higher prices brought on by the war in Ukraine; and a new law allowing the sale of to-go alcoholic beverages sold by restaurants.

There will also be an announcement in the coming days about programs to bolster the state’s health care workforce, increasing funding for child care, a five-year transportation infrastructure plan, and a “record investment” in clean energy infrastructure.

Hochul also said on Thursday there was an agreement with state Senate and Assembly Democrats on a new state ethics commission and changes to the state’s controversial bail laws. She did not mention Republican legislative leaders Will Barclay of the Assembly or Robert Ortt of the Senate in her budget message.

“Ultimately, if the governor and leaders think passing a $220 billion state budget in darkness is so good for New York taxpayers, then why don’t they hold their press conferences at 3 a.m. instead of the light of day? Clearly, they don’t because they want a full airing of their ideas to the public through the media so they can be seen and heard,” Tedisco said.

“As the famed journalist Bob Woodward popularized, ‘democracy dies in darkness.’ If an agreement hatched in the dark of night at 3 a.m. is so good for our state then it will still be a good one to be debated and voted on at 3 p.m.”