August 17, 2007
CONTACT: Jeffrey Gordon

Budget Director Sends Out “Call Letter” for 2008-2009 Budget

Asks Agencies to Identify Savings While Building on Reforms Established in Previous Budget

The State Division of the Budget has sent its annual “Call Letter” to the leaders of state departments and agencies to provide them with guidance in developing their budget requests for the next fiscal year, which begins April 1, 2008.

Budget Director Paul Francis asked that budget requests build on the major structural reforms enacted in the 2007-2008 budget, while preserving the fiscal discipline necessary to close an expected 2008-2009 General Fund gap of $3.6 billion without raising taxes.

The Call Letter notes that the 2008-09 Executive Budget must address and balance the following goals:

– Continuing the structural reforms enacted in the 2007-08 budget, including: driving school aid funding to high-needs districts; reallocating health care dollars to improve affordability, quality and access; and increasing property tax relief focused on the middle class;

– Closing the spending gap without raising taxes; and

– Ensuring the state’s long-term fiscal stability by increasing reserves, while prudently managing the level of state-related debt.

Issuing the Call Letter in mid-August — about 4-6 weeks earlier than in prior years — represents the first step in Governor Spitzer’s plan to begin the budget process earlier to bring greater transparency and public discussion into the process.

The Call Letter highlighted the need to make hard choices as part of the budget-making process, noting: “The significant turbulence in the financial markets over the last several weeks is yet another signal that it is unlikely that higher-than-expected tax revenues will relieve us of the need to make hard budget choices this year.”

“We are not asking for a ‘status quo’ budget, but rather for your best thinking as to how to deploy this amount of resources to achieve the Governor’s core priorities,” said Francis. “It will be necessary to reduce spending below ‘current services’ levels in most agencies in order to achieve a balanced budget.”

Current services refers to the amount of spending that would be required to continue the current level of services assuming no change in existing law or programs.

Text of the Call Letter.