What do governors do when they want to push an agenda and don’t want to wait for the Legislature to do its job?
They declare an “emergency.”
gov. Andrew Cuomo did it when he wanted to continue pushing his pandemic policies, even when the Legislature had time to consider the impact of those policies and had the right and obligation to act itself.
Now Gov. Kathy Hochul is citing an “emergency” to spend millions of state tax dollars on her agenda to increase access to abortion in the wake of the US Supreme Court leak that indicated it might soon undo abortion rights covered under the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.
The governor announced Tuesday that she wants to spend $35 million in state tax dollars, in part to ensure that low-income women from other states can come to New York if their own states limit their ability to have an abortion.
About $25 million of the $35 million would come from an emergency account in the Department of Health, which right now has less than $3 million in it. The rest of the $25 million in emergency funding would have to come from the state budget.
The remaining $10 million of that $35 million will come from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services for increased security for abortion providers.
Some good government groups and reporters have rightly questioned the governor’s use of “emergency” funds to support her plan.
For starters, the Supreme Court hasn’t actually taken any action to overturn Roe v. Wade. The decision that was leaked was written by one judge and may not reflect the actual decision by the entire court. It could be at least a month before a decision is made.
The governor’s action anticipates circumstances that haven’t yet occurred and might not, and she is responding to what other states might or might not do with regard to their own abortion rights. Yet she is using New York emergency funds that might be needed later for an actual emergency, like a resurgence of covid.
The other issue we have is that the Legislature has the constitutional authority over spending in the state budget, and lawmakers are currently in session and available to debate and vote on the spending.
What need is there for the governor to use a manufactured “emergency” to shift around taxpayer money at this time, when the Legislature is in session and has time to evaluate the plan and make the decision itself?
On top of that, none of these issues address the wisdom of the effort itself.
New York already ensures abortion rights for its own citizens. Is it a proper use of state taxpayer money to take on the financial burdens of residents from other states — at least without a healthy public debate?
Emergency funding should be reserved for actual emergencies, not just issues the governor feels are too urgent or too important for her to go through the proper legislative debate and review.
As we said when Cuomo was abusing his emergency powers during the pandemic, the Legislature needs to step up and do its job.
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Categories: Editorial, Opinion