As far as Sen. Phil Fortunato is concerned, the Democrats, who have the majority and control the agenda, are pulling out all the stops.
Democrats want to approve a supplemental budget, with what Republicans think is an illegal budget gimmick, ignoring state law and using a shell game to divert $700 million from going into the state’s Budget Stabilization Account or what is commonly called the rainy-fay fund or state’s savings account.
The rainy-day fund was put in place by taxpayers to protect them in times of economic downturn or natural disaster, not to be used when the taxpayers just gave the state $2.3 billion in their hard-earned tax dollars.
“It is amazing,” said Fortunato, R-Auburn. “The Democrats are proposing a dangerous precedent for tapping the rainy-day fund and spending the taxpayers’ money by a simple majority vote instead of the 60 percent required by the state constitution. I believe their actions are illegal and will cause serious harm to our state’s bond rating. This money is supposed to be safeguarded in the event of an emergency or economic downturn, and even though the state’s coffers are bursting at the seams with taxpayer money, they want to spend even more. When is enough, enough?”
Voters across the state overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in 2011 to protect taxpayer “extraordinary revenue” (an unexpected bonus in tax revenue) during periods of strong economic growth. Under the voter-approved law, a portion of extraordinary revenue must be deposited in the Budget Stabilization Account, which would be about $700 million this year and would require a 60-percent “yes” vote to tap.
“We have enough resources to provide needed property tax relief this year and invest in education,” said Fortunato. “The taxpayers have given the state more of their hard-earned money because of an economic upturn and this gimmick to spend it rather than give it back in property tax relief is unacceptable. They want to kick relief down the road and only give back 30 cents on the dollar. Imagine, you get a bonus, and instead of paying down your debt, you take out another mortgage on your house, deplete your savings, buy a bunch of stuff and then spend your bonus – that is what the Senate Democrats are proposing we do. The big difference is that state law requires we save.”
Although the state is projected to take in over $2 billion in unexpected revenue since the two-year operating budget was approved in 2017, the new Senate majority plans to spend all of the new money in addition to raiding the voter-approved account.