New York State : Timing everything in rosy budget plan

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s 2022-23 budget is a wonderful piece of election-year economics.

Hochul and her staff crafted the proposed spending plan facing what had been a crowded primary field — one that has winnowed somewhat with the departures of Letitia James and Bill de Blasio — and what is sure to be raucous general election challenge from Republican contender Lee Zeldin. Hochul’s budget is a warning shot to those who think she’s going to be a pushover in any election. It largely satisfies the education lobby that had been a fly in the ointment for the last three Democratic governors in New York state.

It speeds up a middle-class tax cut. It spends money on transportation and infrastructure, two pretty popular items for government aid. There’s spending to help small businesses, theaters and musical arts groups recover from the pandemic. And there’s a pay boost for health care workers.

That’s a lot of electoral boxes checked.

Of course, that level of spending is only possible for two reasons — $22 billion in pandemic relief from the federal government that is helping balance the state budget through 2027 — and stronger-than-expected tax receipts bolstered by last year’s increased taxes on the wealthy.

Give Hochul credit for a well-played hand. We hope, for New York’s sake, the governor isn’t overplaying it.

We’ve seen this before. Governors promise big things to schools and taxpayers.

Then, the state gets dealt a lousy hand in the form of terrorist attacks that decimate Wall Street, a recession that forces the state to take back all the goodies they had promised or a pandemic comes along to force massive job contraction.

Why invest so much in education — for both school districts and colleges — when fewer people are being educated in New York? New York has long spent the most per pupil of any state and enrollments are declining. Enrollment in SUNY schools has declined 20% over the past 10 years.

Both of those facts make us wonder why the state is throwing more money at a system that needs a reboot, not to be propped up.

When Uncle Sam’s handouts and the highly taxed rich people go away, can New York afford this level of spending? This budget is a wonderful piece of election-year economics. Time will tell if it’s also a good piece of governance.


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