What Budget Crisis, Unfunded Mandates & Poll Question of the Week

When Gov. Paterson reported a while back that tax revenues will be short by an estimated $2.1 billion for the current fiscal year, he stated he planned to call the Legislature back into session in September to balance the budget. He also stated that he would not sign a bill that increased taxes or raised fees. It’s September, but the Legislature thinks the Governor is bluffing. Speaker Silver says he’s not bringing his house back until there’s a deal and Senate Democrats want to wait another 3 months to see if things get better.

The truth of the matter is that neither the Governor or the Legislature has the slightest idea of how to cut $2.1 billion out of the current $132 billion budget. If the Gov. waiting for the Legislature to come up with the savings he’s got a long wait coming. If he’s got a plan, when is he going to reveal it?

Ginger Otis writing in the NY Post decided to save the Gov. and the Legislature the strain of finding ways to raise money that aren’t taxes or fees. She asked a number of Republican lawmakers as well as Post State Editor Fred Dicker if they had any suggestions and lo and behold they came up with $3.0 billion worth of saving.

The savings would come from eliminating give-away programs, not buying more land from the Nature Conservancy, shutting down commissions and public authorities, capping overtime, cutting back on administrative hirings as well as eliminating Medicaid fraud, member items and the governor’s $1 billion slush fund. Fred Dicker wants the state to sell the art collection off the walls of the concourse level of the Empire State Plaza.

In February the Citizens Budget Commission sent recommendations to the Legislature that had $3.1 billion worth of savings. They suggested reforming Medicaid, better targeting school aid, right-sizing prisons, trimming “overly generous” public employee benefits and making state programs more cost-effective.

I’ll add one more: reduce the Legislature’s budget by 10 percent!

The Tax Chickens are Coming Home to Roost in New York’s Villages, Cities, Counties and Towns

If you checked out the stories posted by the Empire Page this weekend, you’ll have detected a trend:

  • Tax payers are shocked when they open their school tax bills reports The Times Union
  • The cities of Kingston, Troy, Geneva and Newburgh need to reduce spending or increase taxes
  • The Auburn Citizen says the city’s school board needs to make more cuts

What is behind this crisis? Runaway pension costs and unfunded mandates are two of the causes.

The Poughkeepsie Journal wants public employees in Dutchess County to share in the cost of their health care benefits.

To get an overview on how New York compares to the rest of the country in terms of unfunded mandates, read the guest editorial published today on the Empire Page by Paul Moore and Elizabeth Lyons of the Government Law Center of the Albany Law School.

Poll Question of the Week: Sell Art Collection?

Last week we asked our readers to tell how they view New York’s economy. More than half (57%) think it’s still getting worse while only 12 percent think it’s on the mend.

This week we want to know if you agree with NY Post state editor Fred Dicker’s suggestion that the state sell the artworks that Nelson Rockefeller bought for the concourse level of the Empire State Plaza in Albany. I didn’t have room for suggestions as to what should go in their place, but if you have any let me know and I’ll share them next week.

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