Bracing to Face New York’s Budget Realities

Legislative Column from Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R,C,I,Ref-Pulaski)
January 24, 2020

This week the governor presented his $178 billion Executive Budget proposal for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Anyone looking for an avenue to promise and prosperity experienced a significant reality check. New York was facing a $6.1 billion budget deficit back in November 2019; what the governor failed to mention is that his “savings plan” did not come to fruition and the state deficit has now grown to almost $7 billion. He provided very little information on an exact solution to a significant financial crisis.

For the second time, the governor will rely on a Medicaid Redesign Team to find significant savings in the massive program which he controls. The panel has been asked to find $2.5 billion in savings, which is far from a guarantee. Doing so without damaging the healthcare system or struggling local governments is an even bigger stretch.

As usual, the governor included a healthy share of politically-driven policies in a budget that should stick to dollars and cents. But for everything included in the proposal, the Executive Budget was more notable for what we didn’t hear.

There was only a single, vague reference addressing new criminal justice reforms that have been dominating headlines and threatening public safety across New York state.

There is no plan to address the $57 billion debt New York has accumulated, which is expected to grow to more than $60.4 billion by the end of the fiscal year.

Despite New York’s notoriously high taxes, there was no new commitment to reducing the cost of living and financial burdens New Yorkers face.

There was unfortunately no acknowledgement that 1.4 million people have packed up and left the state in the last 10 years, including 77,000 in 2019, the worst in the nation.

The heart of any state budget should be fiscal responsibility; limiting spending to what is needed and cultivating long-term, sustainable growth. Gov. Cuomo’s budget relies heavily on smoke-and-mirror initiatives that look good on a projector, but fail to address the core issues New York state is facing. Of course, airport and infrastructure projects are critical investments in the state’s overall economic viability, but they are not a substitute for true fiscal reform.

But, there is much work to do, and none of it is easy. I am hopeful that as we move toward the April 1 budget deadline, we will work collaboratively to address the most pressing financial issues holding New York back, and do so openly and inclusively. As the governor said in his address, “our entire agenda doesn’t work if New Yorkers don’t have confidence in the process.” We couldn’t agree more. Our Conference stands ready to work with him toward fixing the issues that have prevented New York from reaching its full potential.