By Tom Precious
ALBANY – The first bill of the 2014 budget was adopted by the Assembly Wednesday, a measure authorizing the state to pay $6.2 billion in the coming year on past and new borrowing to pay for everything from road to park work.
The debt service alone will cost an average of more than $300 per resident of the state. Assembly Ways and Means Committee Chairman Herman Farrell told colleagues during the brief floor debate that the state’s total new and existing debt -– some of which he said goes back decades -– this year will total $57.1 billion. Of that, just $3.5 billion was approved by voters in statewide referendum votes.
Assemblyman Andy Goodell, a Chautauqua County Republican, took a cue from his predecessor’s annual budget speech highlighting the concerns of mounting state debt levels. He said that, while roads, bridge and other construction programs for which debt is issued may be needed, voters should have a say.
“I believe this violates the spirit if not the letter of the constitution,’’ Goodell said, echoing years of criticism about debt by former Assemblyman Bill Parment, a Jamestown-area Democrat.
But Farrell dismissed Goodell’s claims, saying court decisions have backed the Legislature’s authority to OK borrowing without direct voter approval.
An hour after the measure was overwhelmingly approved, legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo headed into closed-door budget meetings to continue talks on the 2014 budget, which is due by March 31.
taggedAlbany | Andrew Cuomo