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Common Sense: The State of the State

Governor Cuomo’s combined State of the State/budget message was a real loser for New York City residents and, in the long term, a bad budget for all New Yorkers. The reason is simple. It is overflowing with new burdens on New York City taxpayers, gimmickry and enormous amounts of new debt to cover its $140 billon bottom line.

The governor, who makes no bones about his dislike for Mayor de Blasio, is moving to transfer $800 million in Medicaid and CUNY expenses off the state ledger and onto the city’s. That will eat heavily into city reserves which are necessary for getting through the inevitable downturn that comes about when real estate bubbles burst or Wall Street has a bad year.

The governor also appears to be duplicating a gimmick that was used by his father and eventually paid a role in his defeat for re-election in 1994. It involves using state authorities — which are government entities but generally exempt from certain statutory limitations — to pick up some state costs and debt. We all pay in the long run since the authorities need to find the revenue to cover their increased debt service and new activities.

In fact, this budget seems really to be balanced on increased debt. The state has a debt cap, but the governor, as has happened in the past, apparently in this budget will use these authorities that are exempt from the cap as a funnel to pay for his expensive state spending plan.

And then there was the part about putting Comptroller Scott Stringer in charge of the state’s homeless initiatives in New York City. I am certainly no fan of Mayor de Blasio, but I am also no fan of bullies and illogical, clearly inappropriate government moves. Cuomo, in this action, has taken his bullying of de Blasio to a new level. Control of homeless initiatives belongs in the office of the mayor, not the comptroller, who is responsible for monitoring expenditures as opposed to running programs.

None of this got by State Senator Martin Golden (whom I serve as chief of staff) or Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, who both criticized the governor and his budget in statements. Of course, the governor will need to sell his budget to the 213-member legislature by its April 1 deadline. It’s going to be a hard sell with clear opposition to many parts of the document coming from both sides of the aisle.

* * *

The budget was not the only thing produced by the governor that seemed to annoy many members of the legislature this past week. The combined State of the State and budget message in the convention center got a strong push back this year. Until Cuomo became governor, the State of the State was a message to the legislature delivered in the Assembly chamber to a combined session of both houses. Governor Cuomo changed that in his first year as governor.

Last year, with the passing of his father on January 1, he moved the State of the State up a week, which put it at the same time as the traditional budget message. Thus, the State of the State — which is suppose to be a report to the legislature on the status of the state and an overarching view of direction — is merged with a technical document on spending.

And it is now a presentation in a convention center as opposed to the legislative chambers, which was novel at first but which many of the members apparently now consider disrespectful. In fact, a number of assemblymembers refused to attend and watched the proceeding on television in their offices.

I suspect that the next governor will be required by the legislature to return to the historic manner and schedule. And who knows — maybe the legislature will stand up to Governor Cuomo and force him to return to the longstanding tradition.

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