Silly you! The budget passed.

In Columns by Hal Peterson0 Comments

On March 31, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced “historic” budget reforms that will slash $10 billion in current spending, assuming a redesign of state government, creation of efficiencies through consolidation, capping spending increases for education and Medicaid and transforming the budgeting process going forward.

Additional reductions totaling $45.3 billion are forecast through 2015, of which 86% involves less aid to localities.

Cuomo said bipartisan cooperation will give New Yorkers the “good” budget they deserve. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said, “This budget is a responsible budget that meets our goals of cutting spending, reducing taxes and empowering the private sector to create jobs.” Even Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was surprisingly amicable, suggesting the budget will “restore New Yorker’s faith and confidence in government, making it more efficient and more productive.”

These pronouncements, while nice to hear; hype the realities evident. We are being asked to buy into a budget that:

assumes that real savings will be realized by “redesigning” a badly flawed system of government by decree, almost overnight. Really?
hardly addresses programs that no longer serve the public good.
assumes the stimulation of revenues with the introduction of a “modernized tax system.”
assumes “Medicaid costs will only grow at their proposed target rates” etc.

In my column “Stop playing games with the budget deficit” (Feb.3) I wrote “the oft-quoted budget deficit continues to hang over our heads a dark cloud.” Little did I realize how correct that assessment was. On Feb.23rd, during a speech at St. Joseph’s College,* Cuomo called our state’s budget numbers “scary” and the process leading to its preparation is “a sham…..an illusion foisted on the unsuspecting citizenry by craven special interest groups and their corrupt enablers, career Albany politicians.

If you’ve ever had any doubts about the level of “dysfunction” in Albany, consider the governor’s closing remark: “All these years when you’ve been hearing they cut the state budget, you really thought they meant cut. Silly you.”

Needless to say our current system of government is broken and might be shattered beyond repair. I wish I had better news to report.

Note: For additional details I recommend you read Chris Smith coverage of this meeting in the April 4th edition of New York Magazine. I called Chris for an affirmation. He assured me the governor’s presentation was skillfully crafted, entertainingly performed, and irresistibly compelling. Best of all he said, it’s mostly true.

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