Progressive Vision Meets Budget Gap

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo presents his fiscal year 2021 Executive Budget in Albany. (Photo by Darren McGee / Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled his 10th executive budget on Jan. 21. It calls for spending $178.592 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2021, a $2.1 billion increase (1.2 percent) from FY 2020.

Per law, the budget must be approved by the state legislature by April 1, at which point negotiators will have closed an estimated $6.1 billion gap.

“This is the most progressive government in the United States of America, and we are fiscally sound,” Cuomo said in his budget address. “And you can do both of those things at the same time, they’re not an oxymoron.”

The budget increases aid to school districts by $826 million (3 percent) to a record $28.5 billion.

“The richer schools are spending $36,000 per student and the poorest schools $13,000 per student,” Cuomo pointed out. “That is the outrage, my friends. That is the problem. Education is the civil rights issue of our day.”

Cuomo went on to say that his aim is to reduce funding disparities by providing more support to poorer schools.

The governor also proposed using $3 billion to help with the MTA’s $51.5 billion capital plan, and unveiled a two-year, $11.9 billion Department of Transportation capital plan.

A press release highlighted the spending priorities and policy goals, many that stretch across multiple years:

• A five-year, $33 billion plan “to combat climate change, preserve the environment and create resilient communities”
• Expands what it claimed was the “nation-leading building program by $25 billion to $275 billion, largest in state history”
• Record spending for homeless, housing and combating child poverty
• Invests $25 million into security infrastructure at religious and non-religious nonprofits to “fight division and hate”
• Continues “middle class and small business tax cuts, strongest-in-the-nation paid sick leave, rape intoxication loophole closure, expanded banking services for low-income people, inclusive ERA and expanded excelsior free college tuition program”

The budget gap, according to the Budget Briefing Book, consists of the general fund gap ($4.1 billion), which it noted was within the range of those closed in recent years (FY 2018: $3.5 billion; FY 2019: $4.4 billion; and FY 2020: $5.3 billion).

The Medicaid gap in FY 2021 is estimated at just more than $2.0 billion and “emerged abruptly at the end of FY 2019. [It] is a risk to state finances if measures to control costs are not enacted.”

The governor has resurrected his Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT), which had closed a previous gap, and charged it “with identifying additional cost-containment measures that will provide approximately $2.5 billion in gap-closing savings in FY 2021.”

The briefing book noted that this isn’t the largest budget shortfall Cuomo has faced.

During his first year as governor, he overcame an $11 billion gap.

Frank Rizzo
Frank Rizzo is a journalist at Anton Media Group. With decades of experience in the industry, he is exceptionally equipped to cover local politics, business and other topics that matter to readers.

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