This week started on a down note in New York state government when Governor Andrew Cuomo and State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli announced a $2.3 billion budget shortfall. Cuomo blames the deficit on federal tax changes. WAMC got reaction from local politicians.
Cuomo and DiNapoli, both Democrats, found the decline after reviewing results of the January quarterly estimated tax payment. "$2.3 billion as a drop at this point in revenues is as serious as a heart attack," said Cuomo.
44th District state Senator Neil Breslin agrees it's quite a dilemma, for himself, both houses and the Democratic majority: "The governor and the legislature are now placed in a difficult position with a plus $2 billion hole that we have in our finances preparing for the budget due April 1st. And the two biggest items that we have to face, first of all, education, which is so critically important and it can't be... we can't reduce that by that much and it's a critically important item, so we have to look for other areas of revenue which becomes difficult, and I personally hope that the recreational marijuana is not used as a replacement because it might be a revenue producer. So, it's gonna be a difficult couple months."
The financial setback leaves the $12.5 million in expected aid to the city of Albany in limbo. Mayor Kathy Sheehan’s office says it "will continue to fight for a baseline level of aid that every city of our size in the state enjoys by right."
46th district Republican Senator George Amedore brands the governor and comptroller as "career politicians who use many budget gimmicks or projections that fail to see the true reality of what's happening in New York. "We have an outmigration of population. We have less taxpayers paying. So we're going to have shortfalls if they don't reign in on their spending. And the governor has not reigned in spending. He continues to go around the state of New York with press releases and announcing all of his so-called 'important projects,' and we have a state legislature that is one-party rule that has not even addressed the fiscal well-being of the state of New York, but wants to make the social issues the focal point, which does nothing to address the plague we face in New York and that is high taxes, a very outrageous reach with overregulation and the cost of doing business, the cost of living here with our energy costs, insurance costs. New York is not affordable."
108th district Assemblyman John McDonald, a Democrat, says the shortfall is going to constrain the advancement of legislative priorities. "It has not been fully determined by an independent entity exactly what the reasons are for the shortfall, and that's an important exercise that we need to go through, not only for today but also in the future. Because, is this is a one-time occurrence or this going to be the new normal. So that's important to do but in the meantime we're going to have go back and review the budget even more closely and really put a heightened focus on priorities, and that's gonna be a challenge, because, as I've always said, many people don't like to hear this but it's the truth. New York state is a very diverse state. Therefore the needs in Albany are different than they are in Buffalo than they are in Long Island and than they are in New York City. And we need to somehow try to find a resolution to put our best foot forward, and we have to do it in a very fiscally responsible way."
Crunching the numbers, Cuomo staffers say they think that the state is experiencing an economic slowdown.
Amedore offers a three-prong solution: impose a spending cap, make the property tax cap permanent, and pull back on “unfunded state mandates.”