Massive Budget Deficit Will Dominate 2020 Session

A legislative column by Assemblyman Robert Smullen (R,C,Ref-Meco)

As we enter the New Year and a new decade, the looming $6 billion budget shortfall is a harsh reminder that some things just never change in Albany. Uncontrolled state spending, unfunded mandates and an anti-business regulatory climate continue to plague our state.

Tax hikes on families and businesses to cover the costs of these reckless policies have driven millions out of New York over the last decade. According to an analysis of census data by the Empire Center for Public Policy, close to 1.4 million people have left the state since 2010. New York lost more residents than any other state, and this is our fourth consecutive decline in population, according to the census data.

Leaders have a responsibility to reverse these trends. Instead, the Majority leadership in Albany largely ignores the clear warning signals.

This year’s budget woes are mainly driven by increased Medicaid costs, or what the Governor calls a “structural imbalance.” However, a recent study from the Mercatus Center of George Mason University concluded that up to 433,000 New York residents “with income above the allowed limit” are enrolled in Medicaid, and the number of New Yorkers getting benefits despite earning too much to qualify rose “by more than 80 percent” from 2012 to 2017. Perhaps this is one reason why our per capita Medicaid costs are already the highest in the nation. New York spends more than the states of Florida and Texas combined, even though both states each have larger populations.

The fact that the state budget gap is at the highest level since the Great Recession, while the national economy is so strong, should lead to a discussion about our Medicaid program and the state’s tax and regulatory climate. We also need to deal with the cold, hard reality that the state simply cannot afford everything it tries to do. The $100 million in your hard-earned tax dollars an unelected commission has committed to spend on public campaign financing is one easy example.

Unfortunately, the Majority politicians are already talking about raising taxes before engaging in any serious examination of the real problems behind the massive deficit. Only in the politics of Albany could one continue to believe that our state has a revenue problem and not a spending problem.

The priorities for the upcoming legislative session should be to rein in spending and reduce taxes so we can pursue an aggressive economic development strategy. A good start would be to practice what we preach on capping spending, requiring a two-thirds majority vote by the State Legislature before raising taxes and increasing the Manufacturer Real Property Tax Credit to help spur economic development.

If we want to create a brighter future for New York in the coming decade, Albany must start learning from its history of failed tax and regulatory policies instead of continuing to repeat them. It’s time to reimagine New York.