EDITORIAL: Hochul’s budget full of gifts, but kicks spending concerns down the road

Gov. Kathy Hochul presents her budget at the State Capitol in Albany on Wednesday, February 1, 2023.

Gov. Kathy Hochul presents her budget at the State Capitol in Albany on Wednesday, February 1, 2023.

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How one views a governor’s budget is often how a child views the spread of gifts under the Christmas tree.

Did you get everything you asked for? And if you didn’t, is what you got enough?

Under Gov. Kathy Hochul’s new budget proposal released on Wednesday, there should be a lot of happy children.

The governor’s $227 billion budget, for the second year in a row, sets a record for state government spending, topping last year’s record by adding about $5 billion in new spending.

Once again, the big winner is education, which will receive a 10% increase to $34.5 billion.

As one pundit put it the other day, the state is now basically “a school aid program that also operates some parks and prisons.”

That might be an exaggeration, but considering that New York already by far spends the largest dollar amount per pupil in the country, the analogy has a ring of truth to it.

Also waking up happy on Budget Morning was the state’s Medicaid program, which got a 9% increase on top of its nation-leading amount, even with an enrollment decline of 1 million, according to the Empire Center.

New York City should be happy with the $1 billion the governor allocated for dealing with the immigration influx and additional help for the city’s MTA transit system. Charter schools (lifting of a cap on their numbers), the TV and movie industry (major increase in subsidies) and those few benefiting from the state’s flawed, competitive regional economic development initiatives should also be filled with joy. The governor also proposed more to address mental health issues and the housing crisis, although advocates for both might feel shortchanged.

Those sitting in their jammies with their arms folded and grumpy looks on their faces might be those supporting efforts to fi ght climate change, the higher education system (a budget cut and possible tuition increases for SUNY/CUNY schools), and struggling home-care workers.

But the governor is more than Santa Claus, and her budget does more than deliver presents.

It also sends a message. And the message she’s sending to New York taxpayers is that she is not serious about addressing the state’s history of excessive spending, unwarranted tax breaks, looming budget deficits and high taxes.

These are the same factors, along with overregulation, that are driving residents out of New York to other states. Her plan relies on a rare surplus to help close current budget gaps. Her failure to make any attempts to rein in spending could lead to budget gaps of $22 billion over the next three years. Without any reliable increase in revenue to offset the record level of spending, taxpayers will eventually be called upon to make up the difference.

Christmas came to many in this year’s budget proposal. But the smiles will disappear if state lawmakers don’t act now to take control of the budget where the governor has not.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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