New York's wealthy won't pay more under Andrew Cuomo's budget proposal, but the poor will get less: The governor's budget plan calls for no new taxes but orders reductions in planned spending on aid to low-income families, homeless services, job training and child welfare.
Cuomo's budget would postpone a planned increase in the state's basic public assistance grant, which rose in 2009 and 2010 after standing pat for nearly two decades. The delay would save $29 million and put off until next year the last of three 10 percent increases in the grant, which for a family of three was due to rise from $300 to $335 a month.
Meanwhile, in order to “more strongly encourage public assistance recipients to seek employment”—and save $7 million—Cuomo proposes withholding an entire household's welfare benefits if the household head fails to meet work requirements for a second time. The governor also plans to save $63 million by relying solely on federal funding to pay Temporary Assistance to Needy Families benefits, which are now funded by a mix of federal, state and local money.
Cuomo wants to end state participation in the city's Work Advantage Program that provides housing help to homeless families, and to reduce the state's reimbursement to the city for adult homeless shelters. “New York City would continue to be required to finance these expenses,” the governor's budget briefing book notes. The proposed human services funding reductions represent about 10 percent of the $659 million reduction in aid to New York City that Cuomo proposes in his 2011-2012 plan.
The budget proposal also reduces the state share of adoption subsidies eliminates planned cost of living adjustments to programs like foster care, puts more of the burden for special education services on localities and eliminates “a proposed long-term safe house for sexually exploited youth,” adding that “Services could be provided for those youth through local social services districts.”
The Cuomo budget contains more than cuts. It also proposes streamlining the alphabet soup of state agencies—for instance, folding the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, the Office of Victim Services and the State Commission of Correction into the Division of Criminal Justice Services.
And many of his cuts have support. Michael Caputo, who ran GOP gubernatorial nominee Carl Paladino's campaign this fall, said in an email on Tuesday: “So far, Gov. Cuomo has proposed a series of reforms that sound an awful lot like Carl Paladino … I must admit the Governor's early fiscal moves are conservative, responsible and absolutely necessary.”
On specific cuts, Cuomo also has support from the other side of the spectrum. Robert Gangi, the executive director of the Correctional Association of New York State, cheered Cuomo's call for cutting at least 3,500 prison beds for a savings of $72 million next year. Cuomo, says Gangi, “has initiated, in effect, a new era of prison policy for New York that could very well provide a model for other fiscally challenged states across the country.” Cuomo also calls for shaving 400 beds from the state's juvenile justice detention system.
But the human services cuts stirred criticism. “To help close a $10 billion budget deficit, Governor Cuomo's budget shifts traditional state supports to struggling counties and reduces spending on a wide-array of services and programs for children and youth that have already been proven effective at producing positive outcomes and preventing more costly interventions,” said the Citizens' Committee for Children of New York.
And City Councilwoman Annabel Palma, who chairs the General Welfare committee, said, “I understand the State of New York is currently facing a fiscal crisis, but I cannot support a proposal that would overwhelmingly target New York City's most vulnerable for severe service reductions. These cuts will leave New York City residents without support or safety net services at a time where they have never been more necessary.”
Advocates began rallying support for a lobby day in Albany on March 1 to protest the cuts.
Meanwhile, there was a triangle of spite over Cuomo's education cuts: Mayor Bloomberg criticized Cuomo, Cuomo's team shot back at the mayor, and the teacher's union used one side's numbers to attack the other.
Bloomberg said Tuesday that Cuomo's plan included $1.4 billion in education cuts to the city, and argued that the city wasn't being treated equitably. “The governor's budget also doesn't include mandate relief – on pensions, procurement, education, or a whole range of other issues – and it doesn't take mandated cost increases driven by the state into account,” the mayor added. “Without those changes, we will be looking at thousands of layoffs in our schools and across City agencies. And because of the last-in, first-out law, we would be forced to lay off teachers based solely on how many years they've logged on the job, not on the quality of the job they're doing.”
But Cuomo's budget director contended that the cut to New York City's education aid compared to what it received last year was not $1.4 billion, but $579 million, and added: “It is also worth noting that Mayor Bloomberg has at least $2 billion in reserves which could be used to offset the loss of this education funding.”
United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew jumped in to say that the Cuomo cuts aren't as dramatic as Bloomberg had predicted. “The governor's planned cut to New York City schools amounts to about three percent of the school system's budget. We have every confidence that Cathie Black, whose management skills the mayor has repeatedly cited, will be able to manage a reduction like this without laying off teachers and raising class sizes,” Mulgrew said.
He added: “If the Mayor continues to insist that cuts in Medicaid and education will lead to significant harm to the city, he should join us in demanding an extension of the millionaire's tax, whose planned sunset will cost the state billions in lost revenue.”
Cuomo's budget, however, does not call for raising any taxes. “Consistent with the Governor's pledge to make New York more economically competitive, the 2011-12 Executive Budget does not propose any new or increased taxes,” the briefing book says.
The budget does aim to increase other revenues, mostly by making lottery games more profitable for the state. One proposal would reduce restrictions on Quick Draw that currently prohibit it from liquor stores or establishments smaller than 2,500 square feet.