Joe Martens speaks to those assembled at the Conference Center in Lake Placid Feb. 1. Martens spoke about the 2012 executive budget proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
On Wednesday, Feb. 1, Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner Joe Martens gave a presentation at the Conference Center at Lake Placid on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 2012-2013 state budget.
He suggested that the $2 billion state deficit could be made up by keeping the budget growth of many state agencies and local aid packages flat rather than increasing them as they have been in the past. Therefore money could be saved by not making cuts to current programs.
Martens went on to discuss a list of reforms as part of the budgetary process, and suggested that they were more challenging than the actual numbers of the budget itself for 2012-2013, outlining four major areas for improvement.
Beginning with economic development, Martens said that the governor wants an “entrepreneurial government” that uses public-private partnerships. He cited the NY Works Fund and its many infrastructure projects throughout the state.
“We are anticipating a $15 billion dollar program,” Martens said.
Many of these projects, such as 114 current flood control repair projects, are run by the DEC which he oversees.
“I can’t tell you from the DEC’s perspective how important the works program is,” he said.
Martens also enumerated the new convention center project at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, saying that it would be developed with “no state dollars,” and the Energy Highway project for which the state wants $2 billion in private investments, as additional examples of economic development. He also mentioned the governor’s continued support of casino gaming, saying, “it is the governor’s view that we should be taking advantage of those dollars.”
Martens went on to discuss how money could be saved by “reimagining government.”
“We need to look at all the existing structures of state government and see how it can be improved,” Martens said.
For this, Martens looked at reforming two major areas: state programs and administrative costs, the latter of which takes about half of every tax dollar according to Martens.
“Once again the governor is insisting that we reign in these costs,” he said.
Martens next touched upon “mandate relief,” the governor’s term for helping counties pay for mandated state programs. For instance, while the amount counties have to pay on Medicaid growth was capped at 3-percent in 2008, the state will eventually take over the cost for all growth to Medicaid by 2015-2016. In addition, Martens noted that pension reform is needed to help alleviate a growing burden on local governments, saying, “private companies have had to do this; the government needs to do so as well.”
Finally, Martens cited education reform, asserting that New York State is first in spending on education, but 38th in graduation rates. For instance, Martens stated that despite being awarded $700 million in 2010 from the Federal Government’s Race to the Top Program, the state still does not have a single teacher evaluation system in any of its 758 school districts, running the risk of losing the awarded funds. Blaming a bureaucratic system that must be changed.
“We must focus on the student, and respect the taxpayer at the same time.”