Did you know the governor can change New York state law to whatever he wants it to be simply by including the alterations in his proposed budget?
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is doing exactly that right now.
The seriousness of it is obvious when polar opposites Republican Dean Skelos and Democrat Sheldon Silver are critical of the governor at the same time and for the same reasons.
It's as if the earth has moved.
Add to that a long analysis of the same concerns by Democratic state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli - and we see how critical it is that New Yorkers back the Legislature to stop Cuomo.
Senate Republican leader Skelos, Democrat Assembly Speaker Silver and Comptroller DiNapoli are united in warning that Gov. Cuomo is trying to take away from the Legislature the power to control state spending and to also chip away at public oversight and accountability.
As The Associated Press reported last week, there's nothing to stop governor from changing the law except a Legislature that is willing to reject the entire proposed budget - even if it means shutting down state government until the governor backs off.
As explained by DiNapoli and reported by the AP, changes written into the Cuomo's proposed budget would "dramatically increase" the governor's power to move funds from one agency to another with less scrutiny and without any regard for the original and publicly stated intent behind spending the money in the first place.
Cuomo's budget would also exempt agency contracts from the comptroller's review - eliminating a standard practice that provides better oversight and public disclosure, DiNapoli reports.
Cuomo's budget director, Robert Megna, was quoted by the AP as defending the change, saying the ability to move funds from one agency to another would add flexibility to a budget that requires state agencies to be more efficient. This flexibility, he said, would "allow for a range of operational measures and ... improve functions such as procurement, real estate, and information technology."
Baloney, says Sen. Skelos.
"I believe when we appropriate and make a decision jointly with the governor (that) money should be spent a certain way, that's the way it should be spent,'' Skelos said last week.
If the governor wants to spend it a different way, he should go back and ask the Legislature, he said.
Yes. Every municipal budget is a statement of policy on how money is to be spent. Setting policy is a duty of the legislature, not the governor.
Wrote DiNapoli, "The passage of an on-time budget through an open, observable process is important. But this progress should be accomplished without abandoning meaningful oversight, appropriate checks and balances, and adequate protection of public dollars."
We urge members of the state Senate and Assembly to stand solidly as a united Legislature and refuse to give up one inch of turf and one iota of power and responsibility to the governor.