Remember the other day when we said New Yorkers would finally get some details from Gov. Andrew Cuomo on his plan for moving the state forward?
Well, we may have been a bit premature.
As the nation was focusing on the change in president, the governor was delivering his blueprint for addressing New York’s financial problems.
But what we got was a wishy-washy, wait-and-see spending plan that either perpetuates the state’s problems or puts it on others to solve them.
One of the unusual aspects of this year’s budget is the two-pronged scenario, based on how much aid the state can expect from the federal government.
The amount of aid we get – $6 billion on the low end to $15 billion on the high end – will determine everything from whether the state raises the top tax rate on wealthy residents, to whether state workers get their delayed pay raises, to whether middle-class New Yorkers get their tax cut, to how much the state will have to spend on education, local government, Medicaid and other social services.
To make the case for the $15 billion in federal money, the governor even threatened to sue the new Biden Administration if it doesn’t come through, a threat that’s both disingenuous and unlikely to succeed.
The federal government does indeed bear responsibility for the extent of the covid crisis.
But not all of the state’s current financial woes can rightly be placed at the feet of the feds.
While the state has been proactive in mitigating the effects of the virus, the Cuomo Administration bears some responsibility of its own.
Many of the budget decisions that are debilitating the state’s finances are self-inflicted through years of wasteful and excessive spending, overly generous funding for education and social services, an over-reliance on taxes, excessive borrowing, state regulatory policies and unfunded mandates that drive up costs to local governments and school districts.
The covid crisis should not be seen as an opportunity for the state to recoup the costs of its financial mistakes.
And state lawmakers shouldn’t be reliant on Congress to make the tough decisions they are required to make themselves.
The two-budget scenario is like if you prepared two budgets for your household — one that’s based on your household income and another based on if you win the lottery. You don’t waste time with the second scenario. You work within the realistic confines of what you reasonable can expect to afford and spend.
The governor might be able to balance the state’s budget with an influx of federal dollars.
But he hasn’t addressed the fundamental problems that plague New York state finances.
We thought maybe we’d get a realistic plan for moving forward.
Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for it.