Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Reform? What's that?

From the NY Observer:

When Lt. Governor Dick Ravitch came out with his budget reform plan in March, it was greeted with a round of criticism from many corners of the capitol, mostly as many lawmakers attacked it for its reliance on borrowing and plans to weaken their budgetary powers.

But the criticisms were usually delivered with the disclaimer that the plan had its good individual elements. And even as it became clear the plan as a whole was unlikely to be approved, there was an emerging consensus on at least one point: Democrats in the Senate and Assembly both voiced support for a move to GAAP budgeting, a widely accepted superior system of bookkeeping. The Assembly passed it as part of its own budget package, and a set of key Senate Democrats announced a budgetary reform package of their own in April, GAAP included.

But even the relatively slight measure of GAAP—at least when compared to some of the other elements of the Ravitch plan—was apparently too much of a jump for Albany.

Last week, as the legislative session ended for the season—save the minor detail of a fully balanced budget—legislators left town without passing any major elements of budgetary reform, GAAP included.

Of course, while proposals such as GAAP are hailed by fiscal advocates and good government groups, they are loved by everyone. GAAP is a budgeting format that ties the hands of lawmakers in some decisions on the budget—it limits the number of gimmicks that have long been used to balance a budget—something that legislatures are never eager to bring upon themselves without some sort of added benefit elsewhere.

Not only that, but public authorities have failed to comply with new laws regulating them.

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