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Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward.
Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward.

Sayward says lawmakers missed plenty of "fat" in their budget

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The state budget passed last week in Albany includes deep cuts in spending, across most sectors of state government and services. Schools, hospitals, not-for-profits, the executive branch agencies -- all are bearing the cost of closing a deficit estimated at over $9 billion dollars.
Still, Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward of Willsboro says lawmakers could have cut more, starting with their own spending. Martha Foley has more.

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More reaction to the state budget finally passed last week, more than four months past its April 1 due date.

It included deep cuts to programs and agencies. Member items were eliminated, The Environmental Protection Fund was slashed.

Teresa Sayward says she's disappointed the Legislature didn't cut more. The Republican Assemblywoman represents Essex, Warren and Hamilton Counties. For example, she says lawmakers could have found savings in their own budgets.

Many areas of the budget were cut by about 5%, she said, "in our legislative budget - the budget that operates our offices, pays for staff, pays for everything we do when we're down in Albany - we cut that by 1%. How do we come home and face the tax payers and tell them we've made cuts everywhere in the budget--but by the way, for ourselves we've cut the least in our budget. And our budget is so big and bloated, and there are areas we could cut that we would never see a difference."

They could start in their own offices. Sayward says, "I have the largest district in the State of New York and I have three employees. And just for examples, there's a legislator (and I'm not going to name names) from downstate that came in the same time I did. That individual has over 20 employees and represents a few city blocks".

It's just one example, Sayward says, of how badly some state legislators handle money. And she says it makes the case for reform.

It's a word often heard in Albany this election year. From the governor's race on down, candidates are promising to change the rules, from term limits to power-sharing in the Senate and Assembly.

Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York City, started the New York Rising Group. He's asked every lawmaker and every candidate to sign a reform pledge that in the next session they'll change the rules. Sayward said no to Koch; "I never want to go back on my word. It's very easy in government to tell somebody you're going to one thing and do something else. I give my word to my constituents. I'm going to keep my word. I don't take pledges."

She offered Koch an alternative, "I wrote to him and I was nice about it. I said let's join hands together and work toward reform, all of us. I thought that it was more important to look at a person's voting record, sift out those people that we know are not reformers, and let's work to defeat them and work to elect people who say they will work for reform. He responded to me in less than two hours saying, if you don't sign up on the list you're going to be listed as an enemy."

Sayward says she's not worried. She calls pledges like this political theater.

She's running unopposed in this fall's election. Sayward says she'll still travel across the district as the campaign season heats up. And said quote "I'll talk about what I've always talked about - change."

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