Last week state Senator Pat Gallivan, R-Elma, introduced a constitutional amendment which would block the governor from including non-fiscal policy proposals in his budget.

The Republican cited the increased use of the budget as a tool for Governor Andrew Cuomo over the years, but acknowledged the practice has been utilized by Republicans and Democrats over the year. In fact, it was GOP Governor George Pataki who was challenged in court, and the landmark decision served to essentially broaden executive power.

The ruling was reinforced when Governor David Paterson was challenged years later.

“Their ability to insert policy was upheld and so the end result is something that the framers of our Constitution I don’t think had in mind,” Gallivan said. “Our Constitution and court decisions give the governor the upper hand when it comes to budgeting. It’s not a legitimate check and balance and we all know that our three branches of government, they’re in place to provide a check on each other and it’s not a level playing field and that ultimately is a disservice to citizens.

The state senator said his proposal simply correct the issue so there is a “legitimate check and balance.” The constitutional amendment process in New York is a difficult one which requires passage in two consecutive legislative sessions and then approval from the general public via a statewide referendum vote.

As for whether Gallivan truly believes he can navigate the amendment through that path, he said it’s his job to make the case. He said he’s not bringing it up because Democrats control the Capitol right now.

However, he said Governor Cuomo has “perfected” the practice. Gallivan pointed specifically to reforms to teacher evaluations and marijuana as issues that were included and the budget and he believed should’ve been discussed separately and on their own merits.

He said it also takes away from the budget process, because instead of focusing strictly on numbers and funding, lawmakers are distracted by policy agendas. Finally, he said it essentially forces the legislature to pass a budget even if it disagrees because if the April 1st deadline passes, Cuomo can send them a take-it-or-leave-it budget that could include policy matters.

Gallivan said because of the court rulings, a constitutional amendment is the only viable option for change.

A spokesperson for the governor’s office said this amendment has already been tried and “wholeheartedly rejected by New Yorkers.” He pointed out, in 2005 the measure went to a referendum vote and lost by a nearly 2-1 margin.