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NEW YORK STATE Cuomo misses mark with budget

The OBSERVER's View

So much for hearing any real budget answers from Gov. Andrew Cuomo in last month’s budget address.

Once again, Cuomo has kicked the can down the road, putting forth two budget plans dependent on an upcoming federal aid package. If the state receives $6 billion from the federal government as part of its aid package, state residents can look forward to tax hikes on the middle class, fee hikes and cuts to school aid, local government, Medicaid and other services. A $15 billion aid package means little changes in the state budget.

We’re a bit troubled by Cuomo’s threat to sue the Biden Administration if the federal aid package isn’t $15 billion. Budget Director Robert Mujica and Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi tried to walk the comment back to say the governor was referring to a decision about continuing the state’s lawsuit against the federal government over the State and Local Tax Deductions that were part of Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul. We don’t buy that for a minute. Someone as polished politically as Cuomo surely knows what he’s saying during a news conference or major policy address.

It is just more proof that Cuomo’s governance style needs a boogeyman to rail against. The most consistent budget message state residents have heard for the past several years is that the state’s problems and failings are not the governor’s fault, but instead are caused by the economy, the president or the Republican Party. It seems, listening to the governor, that he believes it’s inconceivable that state’s budget may indeed lie with the person who starts the process with the executive budget proposal and ends the process in a closed room with legislative leadership.

Rather than baying at the moon, we’d prefer the state proceed as if it will receive the $6 billion and budget accordingly. It’s funny that the governor mentions cuts to Medicaid and other service programs, but not cutting out his economic development programs like the Downtown Revitalization Initiative or Regional Economic Development Council grants. The Regional Economic Development Council program accounts for $750 million. The DRI accounts for another $100 million. In two strokes of the pen, we’ve found nearly a billion in savings. Does the state’s Green Energy Transmission Superhighway project have to be done this year at an overall cost of $2 billion?

Budgeting involves making choices — but that doesn’t seem to be the way the governor wants to proceed at a time when revenues are limited and expenses are skyrocketing.

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