Posts tagged ‘Section 4’

A Tale Of Two Budgets: Why It Matters To Your Credit Union

Nothing underscores the sharp differences between Congress and the New York State legislative processes more than the differences between how legislators in New York and Congressmen in Washington decide how to spend money.

Senate Budget Chairman, Republican Mike Enzi, greeted President Trump’s proposed $4.8 trillion dollar budget by announcing that he would not bother holding a hearing on the proposal. According to the Wyoming Senator, “nobody has listened to the President in the 23 years that I’ve been here.”

Meanwhile, New Yorkers and legislators anxiously awaited the Governor’s budget proposal with an increasing number of legislators grousing that he has too much power.

Why am I talking about this now? Because the Governor has proposed legislation in his budget, such as one addressing financial abuse of the elderly and disabled, that would have a direct operational impact on credit unions. In addition, the distinctions are important to understand as the lobbying season goes into high gear. Besides, I really enjoy the subject, so humor me a little.

Article I, section 9 of the U.S. Constitution provides that “no money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law”. In other words, the power of the purse belongs to Congress, not the President which is why the senator can be so dismissive of the President’s proposal and the President can devise a budget plan catering to his political supporters secure in the knowledge that it has not practical consequences. Given the give and take of the political process, for much of the last century, the President and Congress would ultimately engage in negotiations that resulted in a functioning spending plan. On paper the Federal fiscal year begins on October 1st and there are twelve subcommittees with jurisdiction over virtually all discretionary spending on the Federal level each of which crafts a bill for Congress to pass and the President to sign or veto.

But the system has largely broken down—a trend which pre-dates the Trump Administration. Appropriation bills are cobbled together in a last second omnibus appropriations bill, assuming one can be agreed to. Today the Federal Government is run by a series of continuing resolutions which are short term spending plans intended to keep government functioning until the President and Congress reach a final agreement.

Meanwhile on the state level the Legislature has no choice but to consider the Governor’s spending plans. As early as 1915, Henry Stimson proposed amending the state’s constitution to give the Governor the responsibility of implementing a unified executive budget. At the time, appropriations were made with little regard for the overall impact on state spending.

Stimson’s initial efforts failed but in 1927 Article 7 section 4 of the State Constitution was enacted.

In contrast to the Federal Constitution, this provision provides that the Governor must propose a budget for the upcoming fiscal year and that the “…legislature may not alter an appropriation bill submitted by the governor except to strike out or reduce items therein, but it may add thereto items of appropriation provided that such additions are stated separately and distinctly from the original items of the bill and refer each to a single object or purpose.”

This is incredibly powerful language. It means that the Governor’s executive budget has the force of law unless it is acted on by the Legislature which only has the ability to reduce or increase suggested appropriations. In addition, a series of important cases in the early 2000’s further strengthened the Governor’s hand by holding that the Governor’s budget powers applied not only to the actual amount appropriated but to the language accompanying an appropriation. That is why you have seen every Governor since George Pataki put more and more of his legislative priorities in his proposed budget.

The Governor has the right to amend his proposals and that is what will be taking place up until April as staff persons and legislative leaders haggle over the state’s spending priorities. But the legal structure means that the Governor starts these negotiations from a position of strength. The legislature could simply refuse to enact a budget by April 1st, but unlike the Federal Government the political consensus in New York has been that the public has little appetite for a government shutdown.

February 13, 2020 at 9:46 am Leave a comment


Authored By:

Henry Meier, Esq., Senior Vice President, General Counsel, New York Credit Union Association.

The views Henry expresses are Henry’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Association. In addition, although Henry strives to give his readers useful and accurate information on a broad range of subjects, many of which involve legal disputes, his views are not a substitute for legal advise from retained counsel.

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