Reforming Albany: Now, the rest of the story

In Columns by Hal PetersonLeave a Comment

My last column, “Stop playing games with the budget deficit (Feb 3) was written one week before Thomas P. DiNapoli, New York state’s comptroller, issued his analysis of the Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget draft..

The irrationality I outlined fell short of anticipating the following mea-culpa expressed in the current comptroller’s analysis “The SFY 2010-2011 enacted budget relied on $16.7 billion in non-recurring or temporary budget resources; and overly optimistic tax revenue projections causing a dramatically worsened state’s structural deficit. How dramatic? These tenuous entries constituted 30per cent of all the monies in the state’s operating fund.

DiNapoli’s analysis also noted “the proposed budget includes over $4.0 billion in saving targets, without details identifying where and how the savings would be achieved making these targets a risk to the financial plan in SFY 2011-12 and beyond.”

With a half measure of repentance evident, the new budget is “less reliant on temporary and non-recurring actions relying on ‘only’ $7.7 billion, a 54 per cent reduction.” You can’t make this stuff up.

Gov. Cuomo plans to transform the budget process, eliminating a $10 billion deficit without borrowing or tax increases. The details involved are shown in the comptroller’s analysis with 57 cents out of every dollar saved from (equally shared) reductions in Medicaid and school funding.

Would have loved to have been in the back room when this decision was reached. Medicaid is budgeted at over $58 billion and has been ravaged by years of well documented fraud, wasteful spending and inefficiencies beyond anyone’s imagination. Time to get serious and evaluate where are tax dollars are spent. Every dollar saved could be a dollar gained to support valued education funding.

The rest of the gap-closing exercise is about what you might have expected. Over 9,748 layoffs are envisioned if concessions are not forthcoming. How likely? Ninety-four percent of the state’s work force is represented by unions (earning on average $98,854 annually), these workers are hardly willing to give back 14 per cent in salary increases gained since 2007. Also, very minor adjustments appear in the gap-closing exercise concerning the funding of public authorities and, possible gains made through consolidation etc.

The analysis referred to is available on www.osc.state.ny.us. Its use by local officials and school administrators is highly recommended.

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