Jennifer March and Tom DiNapoli
Jennifer March, executive director of the Citizen’s Committee for Children, and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

Before the Coronavirus outbreak began, New York State government was headed toward its April 1 budget deadline with a spending plan from governor on the table. Whether things looked good or bad depended on one’s perspective.

To state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who is charged with monitoring New York’s fiscal health, things looked pretty good. Tax revenues were actually coming above projections.

To Jennifer March, the executive of the Citizen’s Committee for New York, the picture was not as rosy because the governor’s budget shifted costs from the state to the city in a way that she and other advocates feared would squeeze human services.

One thing everyone can agree on is that things look much much worse now.

DiNapoli and March joined WBAI’s Max and Murphy Show on Wednesday to talk about the state budget amid the COVID crisis.

For the comptroller, the timing makes the fiscal risks even deeper, because the state must come up with a spending plan amid the deep uncertainty of the moment.

“One of the real challenges we have from state budgetary perspective and from a political perspective as well is that events and information seem to change not only day by day but moment to moment. The legislature and the governor are required to have a budget in place by April 1,” he said. “It’s very clear that the revenue assumptions that were made just a few short weeks ago–you might as well tear that up and throw it out the widow.”

March believes the public emergency just exacerbates the dangers of a bad budget.

“When the state budget was first proposed by the governor in January it included about $1.4 billion in cost shifts to the city of New York,” including reducing the state share of Medicaid, reducing support for child-welfare prevention, welfare assistance and school spending. “We’re concerned that the state and the state legislature may well have a budget agreement by this weekend and it’s not clear to us that they’ve addressed these cost shifts at all.”

“A time when the city and counties around the state are scrambling to get ahead of a massive public health crisis is really not the time to be cutting or cost shifting in the area of Medicaid or any of these other essential supports.”