Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2020 State of the State message is the list your kids send to Santa Claus.
His budget message a couple of weeks from now is the credit card bills you get in dreary January.
Until we see exactly how he plans to pay for everything he proposed during his annual message on Wednesday, New Yorkers won’t be able to judge the viability and effectiveness of his plan.
Last year, the governor delivered his budget message at the same time as the State of the State so that New Yorkers weren’t kept guessing.
But given that the state is facing a $6.1 billion budget deficit this year, due in large part to excessive Medicaid spending and some crafty budgeting tricks that put off some expenses, it’s easy to see why the governor didn’t want to spoil the excitement of opening all the presents by including the receipts in the packages.
While Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has been forthcoming about the potential need to raise taxes to offset the deficit, the governor didn’t commit to specific tax hikes in his speech on Wednesday.
He barely even mentioned the deficit or the Medicaid issue — the real elephants in the room — and he skirted education spending. He did hint about redistributing state aid to help poorer schools as a way to manage education spending, and he foreshadowed a potential plan to increase the local share of Medicaid costs so that local taxpayers pick up more of the bill.
The governor proposed an aggressive environmental agenda, to be paid for in part with a $3 billion bond act that voters would have to approve. The referendum would authorize the state to borrow money for projects such as land preservation, restoration of habitats and water quality.
Unlike with the rest of his initiatives, the bond act proposal at least gives taxpayers some idea of how these particular proposals would be funded and how much money it will cost them.
The rest of the speech should have come as no surprise to anyone paying even slight attention to state government. It reflected the progressive agenda the governor has been pushing for years, support for which was solidified when Democrats took over both houses of the Legislature last year.
That agenda includes unfinished business like legalizing recreational marijuana and expanding pre-kindergarten, as well as adding anti-discrimination protections to the state constitution, further restricting sales and marketing of vaping products, and initiatives to lower prescription costs.
In the weeks leading up to the speech, the governor rolled out more than 30 other initiatives, including a ban on foam food packaging and a study of high-speed rail.
Oddly, he didn’t mention the controversy brewing over a law passed last year to eliminate cash bail for most nonviolent crimes.
But the governor clearly didn’t consider this the time or place to deliver bad news.
This was the time for wishful thinking.
The bills will come due soon enough.