Yes it’s a budget that would cut year to year spending for the first time in a long time.
Yes it’s a budget that would cut projected spending on major issues like education and health care.
But isn’t it a bit refreshing to have a governor that is at least trying to finally tackle the problem rather than simply punt it to the future with lip service, or turn to the tax and spend policies of the past.
You have to give Andrew Cuomo credit, but at the same time, you can bet your last dollar on it, the battle lines are already drawn.
Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver, who has pledged to work with the new governor, praised the $132.9 billion budget plan but pay close attention to the part where Silver said elected officials would closely examine how spending cuts would affect patients, schoolchildren, and others.
Translation, Assembly democrats don’t agree with the own governor’s budget.
“As the governor said, this is about people and how this budget affects people,” Mr. Silver said. “There are children in schools, there are senior citizens, there are people in our hospitals, and I think what we need is an evaluation of this proposal.”
“New York is at a crossroads, and we must seize this opportunity, make hard choices and set our state on a new path toward prosperity,” Cuomo said Tuesday. “We simply cannot afford to keep spending at our current rate.”
Speaker Silver is correct to the degree that one of government primary roles is serve as a safety net for those that can't defend themselves and in this case that means for lawmakers to evaluate the impact of such large cuts, but we already know the results of what will come back.
The response will sound something like this: “the cuts can’t be made without devastating people.”
Maybe that’s the case, maybe it’s not.
There are so many questions out there in front of the new governor who is also consolidating some agencies. One question, will his own task force be able to come up with enough Medicaid cuts to reach Cuomo’s goal? Of $2.85 billion in Medicaid cuts.
How will the education battle play out with Mayor Michael Bloomberg following Cuomo’s plan to eliminate the annual state aid NYC has received in the past through a state revenue-sharing program. The mayor is all but screaming bloody murder with the city not receiving the money for the second year in a row.
But isn’t Cuomo 100 percent accurate when he said New York spends too much and gets too little in return, including when it comes to education, a category in which New York ranks first in spending but 34th in results.
Education groups as one would expect are not pleased.
“Governor Cuomo’s cuts to our kids’ schools are the largest in history. If they are adopted the damage to students will be permanent because children do not get a second chance,” said Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education.
“Education, as Governor Cuomo pointed out, is the civil rights issue of this generation,” added Geri Palast, executive director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.
“New York still has a two-tier public education system that does not provide adequate resources for our neediest students to receive a quality education.”
Is the honeymoon over with the new governor wanting to also lay off as many as 9,800 state workers and the closing of prisons?
Many of Mr. Cuomo’s moves are only logically like reducing the prisons by 3,500 beds to account for the shrinking prison population, but try selling that in Elmira, Attica or basically anywhere north of the city where the prisons have literally become economic engines for local communities.
The Legislature must approve the spending by the April 1 start of the state fiscal year.
But even the budget deadline has been a major test for governors. NY legislatures have often enjoyed missing the budget deadline to make the governor look bad. Lawmakers did it to Cuomo’s father when he was looking at running for President.
Of course during this process, there will be changes to the budget, but I just have a funny feeling the same fate of a late budget, especially in his first year is just not in the cards for the younger Cuomo.