Colby Hamilton, Writer, WNYC News
Colby Hamilton is a general assignment reporter. He originally joined WNYC as a political blogger. He's a proud graduate of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
Downstate lawmakers, both state legislators and city elected officials, are reacting positively, generally, to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget speech given today in Albany. The biggest pieces of the Governor proposed—pension, education and Medicaid reform—took center stage.
They all could have significant impacts on the city's finances and public workforce. The Governor's pension reform would affect all future new public employees, including New York City first responders, while his teacher evaluation proposal could affect the ongoing battle between the city and teachers. And with billions being spent by the city on Medicaid each year, any change in the payment process is significant for the city.
“Governor Cuomo put forward a budget that demonstrates a bold commitment to tackle some of the toughest challenges facing our great state. He has my strong support,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement. Bloomberg has been a strong support of much of what the Governor proposed for education and pensions. The Mayor also said he supported Cuomo’s plan to “reduce onerous local Medicaid costs.”
Council Speaker Christine Quinn signaled she, too, supports the Governor’s plan:” This is the strongest state budget that New York City has seen in a long time. With this new budget, Governor Cuomo is establishing a stronger financial basis for a more vibrant and healthy New York.”
Up in Albany, city lawmakers signaled both support and concern for what they heard from Cuomo.
“I think the challenge for us all will be to parse the actual details and what they mean for different parts of the state, different issues,” said Democratic Senator Liz Krueger of Manhattan right after the budget speech, which she called “very strong.”
Krueger said the push for teacher evaluations and pension reform was something she expected to “hear it from both executives”—Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg. She went on to note that the issue of Medicaid costs were shared by both New York City and upstate localities. “I think it’s a consistent message from all levels of government,” Kruger said, noting that she supports the state’s takeover of Medicaid payments.
Republican Staten Island Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis called the speech “ambitious” and said she was happy to hear senior center funding would remain intact.
“I also think that, overall, the economic development projects are something that we need to look at further,” she said, adding that she felt the Aqueduct convention center plan was a good one.
The pension reform issue was addressed by a number of stakeholders. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who has voiced concerns about the creation of a new pension tier in the past, treaded cautiously in his remarks:
There is going to be considerable debate on the Governor’s pension proposal. Let’s remember that New York has one of the strongest pension funds in the country because it has been managed and funded responsible over the years. It is the basis for retirement security for many New Yorkers.
The state’s largest union, CSEA, put out a statement through its president Danny Donohue, who said the Governor was “out of touch with the day-to-day challenges that public workers in both state and local government face” and accused Cuomo of taking a “cheap shot at public employees.”
“Simply put, the Tier VI provisions would be onerous on working people and undermine middle class security and the governor ought to be more concerned about that,” Donohue said.
PEF President Ken Brynien called the Governor’s plan “nothing more than a false choice of accepting severely reduced pension benefits or joining an inefficient 401k style pension system.”
The Partnership for New York City’s Kathryn Wylde called the plan a reflection of Cuomo’s “pledge to restore fiscal responsibility to Albany,” indicating business’ support for the budget.
“The Governor's message resonates with the business community, because it contains no gimmicks and provides a clear roadmap to fiscal stability,” she said.