Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2014-15 is a classic election-year attempt to be all things to every voting group in the state.
To appeal to fiscal conservatives, he’s proposed keeping spending increases under the rate of inflation, at about 2 percent. He’s also claiming that the success of his policies will result in a $2 billion surplus that could fund some tax cuts and property tax credits for select homeowners.
What the governor failed to mention is that his so-called “tax relief” is nothing more than income redistribution. That’s because he raised taxes on the rich — breaking his solemn pledge not to do so — and the $2.6 billion in revenue generated from the increases will be used to fund this so-called relief.
As for the governor’s boast that his outstanding stewardship of the state’s finances has turned a projected $3 billion deficit into a $2 billion surplus, experts are questioning his veracity.
After reviewing the governor’s proposed financial plan, E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center for Public Policy, said: “There is no $2 billion surplus, not really. Not by any traditional standard of measurement. In fact, if the executive budget is adopted as proposed, the state will still face a budget gap of $1.6 billion in 2006, $2 billion in 2017 and $3 billion in 2018.
“That ‘$2 billion budget surplus’ is, or was, strictly aspirational,” McMahon added. “Or a better word, notional. Or hypothetical. Or something other than actual, based on adoption of the actual budget proposed by the governor.”
To placate the extreme leftists who control the state’s Democratic Party, New York’s City Hall and the teachers’ union, Cuomo has vowed to fund universal full day pre-K, which is expected to cost $100 million next year and is projected to top $500 million annually by year five.
He has also proposed to put before the voters this November a $2 billion bond proposal. If approved, the money would be used to fund “the technology of tomorrow” for schools and to pay for the construction of pre-K classrooms.
The benefits of 4-year-olds in full day pre-K programs are dubious at best. The political and practical reason for implementing the program: It creates thousands of new teaching positions, which further empowers teachers unions. New York City’s Mayor de Blasio has another motive for supporting pre-K: He can force charter schools, which he and the teachers union despise, out of city public school buildings, citing the need for space.
As for the $2 billion bond issue, incurring long-term debt to buy laptops and iPads – which have short life spans — is ludicrous. The Empire Center points out that the real motive for borrowing is “to cover expenditures heretofore subsidized out of the state’s annual operating budget in the form of school aid, including funds dedicated for building and ‘hardware and technology.’”
This is a classic fiscal gimmick perfected by the governor’s father, Mario Cuomo, whereby one issues long-term debt to pay for today’s operating expenditures. Such fiscal shell games brought New York City to the edge of bankruptcy in the 1970s.
Hopefully, the voters in November will have the good sense to reject this sop to the teacher unions.
Cuomo’s boast that he is “Building on Success” and that he has “reversed decades of decline and made dramatic and undeniable progress” appears to be falling on deaf ears.
Between July 1, 2012, and June 30, 2013, New York lost 104,000 residents than it took in. The Empire State has the worst domestic migration record in the nation.
People are leaving economically depressed areas like Broome County, where Cuomo forbids hydrofracking, for fast-growing states like North Dakota, which have been experiencing a fracking-fueled boom.
Until Cuomo champions genuine tax cuts and promotes real job growth, expect New Yorkers to continue flocking to the exits.
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J., is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact." He also is a columnist for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. Read more reports from George J. Marlin — Click Here Now.
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