Cuomo Begins Swinging Budget Axe

This past week, Governor Cuomo submitted his Executive Budget to the State Legislature, including the briefing book, five-year capital program and financing plan, five-year financial plan, economic and revenue outlook and all that actually appropriation bills. Although the budget may seem like an abstract thing, the budget is the place where most policy decisions are made and where policy objectives are implemented in concrete financial terms.

So what’s next? The Division of the Budget has a handy little guide:

The Legislature, primarily through its fiscal committees – Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means – analyzes the Governor’s spending proposals and revenue estimates, holds public hearings on major programs, and seeks further information from the Division of the Budget and other State agencies. Following that review, the Legislature acts on the appropriation bills submitted with the Executive Budget.

But now to the meat of the bills, what did Cuomo actually propose? At the highest level, if the budget were passed by the legislature as is, it wold be the first in decades to actually reduce spending–meaning a lot of state agency, Cities and citizens are going to have to feel the pain. “Planned spending on Medicaid programs and local school aid would each be cut by $2.85 billion,” but on Medicare “he declined to articulate specific cuts. The tough calls, he said, would be left up to a special policy team of health-care industry figures, who have less than two months to figure out how to squeeze savings.” Even a member of that policy team notes: “It will require alchemists, not policy wonks or providers, to transform cuts of this magnitude into gold.”

On education, the WSJ continues:

The most dramatic cuts fell on education, provoking criticism from Democratic lawmakers, teachers unions and the Bloomberg administration, which decried the loss in funding to city schools as unfair.

Under the governor’s plan, state spending on public schools would drop 1.7% from the current-year total. Between 1999 and 2009, school spending grew at a compound annual average rate of 6.3%, according to the Empire Center for New York State Policy, a fiscal think tank.

The Mayor is obviously a little upset:

Unfortunately, the budget does not treat New York City equitably; it eliminates 100 percent of New York City’s revenue sharing aid – more than $300 million – while cutting other localities by just 2 percent. The residents of our five counties pay a disproportionate amount of State taxes, and they deserve the same level of support.

The proposed budget also

  • shrinks the state’s prison system by 3,500 beds in medium- and minimum-security facilities, although he doesn’t specify where, that would be left to a commission;
  • includes a 10% cut to state agencies, which if not approved will lead to nearly 10,000 public worker being laid off if the Unions don’t come to terms;
  • does not propose extending a temporary state income tax increase on wealthy New Yorkers; and,
  • cuts $125 million in property-tax rebates as he seeks a permanent cap on local property tax growth.

Other IOC chairs and I will have more in-depth analysis of the budget, its cuts, and the budget process over the coming weeks and months as everything unfolds.

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