Cuomo's Budget: The Day After

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on The Brian Lehrer Show, Errol Louis, host of NY1's Inside City Hall joined Azi Paybarah, WNYC political reporter and author of The Empire blog, to give us a closer look at Governor Cuomo's $132.9 billion budget proposal.

New York state faces a $10 billion deficit this year. Newly-elected Governor Andrew Cuomo is charged with fixing it.

On Tuesday, Governor Cuomo released a budget proposal intended to do just that. The name of the game is streamlining government organization and operation, cutting waste and spending wherever possible. That calls for a microscope on a macro scale. New committees will be created to examine loads of public services and find the fat to cut. Highlighting the long, arduous process that entails, Azi Paybarah said that Governor Cuomo's proposal does more to outline broad goals than enumerate policy.

The governor is implementing this kind of program, with committees looking at government and prison consolidation, unfunded mandates, and other things—a series of panels to which the governor is saying, "Study these issues and report back to me." It's almost to the point where he was left yesterday announcing budget targets rather than specifics.

In particular, the governor singled out Medicaid and education funding as prime drivers of costs that don't produce adequate bang for the buck. But where can the government find savings? Governor Cuomo mentioned trimming the Medicaid bureaucracy so that funds don't get whittled away as they pass from hand to hand. On education, Azi Paybarah said, Cuomo not-so-subtly called out administrators and their salaries.

He told school districts, "Here's what I'd like you to cut, here's where I think you guys can do it, figure it out." He did not step in and say, "I'll help relieve unfunded mandates," and he's not going to empower them to do something new that they haven't tried before. He pointed to them and said, "Your salaries, for some of these guys, are more than mine, and I'm managing an entire state. Some of them are managing school districts with fewer than 1,000 children." 

Another place Governor Cuomo is turning for budget cuts is New York City. Mayor Bloomberg was among the first detractors out of the gate on Tuesday, and he slammed the governor's proposal, saying it unfairly withdrew state funds previously promised to the city—about $300 million—while other municipalities were spared such a cut. Errol Louis said that the state has characterized the reallocation of funds differently—perhaps with good cause.

The budget director said, "You didn't get any money last year, you're not getting any this year. That's not a cut, that's just the way it is." The state's rationale is, New York [City] has a lot of other ways to raise money. We've got all kinds of parking and water bills and an income tax, and that's not true for a lot of smaller localities. The state is saying, New York [City] is going to have to live without this $300 million.

Louis said that doesn't mean the city can't complain.

When it came to education in particular, the mayor's people feel like they're becoming victims of their own sound budgeting practices. When they try and estimate in advance what the state will give them, they're not pulling numbers out of the air, they're not making forward guesses; they're relying on what the state tells them. If the state tells them they're going to give, let's say, a billion dollars for education, then turns around and gives them half a billion or less, then they're really scrambling.

Mayor Bloomberg isn't the only one making noise about the governor's budget. Paybarah said that health care sector unions and lobby groups are up in arms about funding cuts, which he finds surprising, considering these are the same people the governor tapped to help him fix Medicaid.

Immediately after the governor's budget presentation, every reporter's email inbox was bombarded with howls. It caught my interest that 1199 SEIU, the union that represents health care workers, along with the Greater New York Hospital Association—both members of the governor's Medicaid redesign team—came out and said that the targeted budget cut the governor's expecting would decimate health care in New York. These are people that are working with the governor who are saying this.

Emily, a caller from Westchester, said that she was tired of hearing such doomsday calls from unions, cities, and everyone else. Sacrifices should be no surprise.

I was disappointed in the kinds of Armageddon reactions from some of the groups out there. Everyone knew this was inevitable...The bottom line is, there isn't money, and it isn't constructive to say that every cut will cripple every industry and program.

That won't stop parties that feel slighted from making their case to the new governor. Louis said that just as Cuomo's budget proposal was more outline than policy, nothing is set in stone yet. There's plenty of time for those left out in the cold to try and negotiate a better deal.

Many of the changes the governor is seeking are going to have to be obtained at the contract table. Some union leaders I'm talking to are saying, people can do all the Power Point presentations and television ads they want. When we get to the bargaining table, there's going to be nobody else in the room...We're going to have a very different conversation.


Errol Louis


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Comments [9]

Amy from Manhattan

Using that comparison of NYC's not getting more money from the state than it did the year before to an employee's not getting a raise, it is in effect a pay cut if the cost of living goes up that year, just as slowing the rate of increase of Medicare/Medicaid funding amounts to a per capita cut when the no. of people eligible for those programs increases at a higher rate.

Feb. 03 2011 01:22 AM
Anon from brooklyn, ny

I am listing "Anon" as my name because I do not want to lose my job, in the Homecare field in New York; Cuomo just "hit the nail on the head" when he spoke about Medicaid Home Health Aide payments; I have worked in the Homecare industry in New York for many years, and have been saying for years that Home Health agencies are making way too much money, while the actual Aide workers make so little. I can give an example; I have worked for Homecare agencies that take $19 from Medicaid per hour of Aide service; we pay $13 to a vendor, who pays $7 to the Aide worker. That means the Homecare agency is taking 31 cents out of every dollar. This in fact translates to tens of millions, hundreds of millions of dollars per year for some agencies. There is a feedback loop between the Homecare agency and the Aide vendor agency as well.

Feb. 02 2011 10:28 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

Charles Harris-

Your post is a perfect example of why we need REAL schools.

Feb. 02 2011 10:27 AM
S. from Long Island

I work for a small school district on Long Island and live with a home care nurse. (She isn't a home health aide-she is a Registered Nurse with 20 years of ICU and ER experience.)

The school district I work for has 4500 students. I shouldn't say which, but let's just say that it is located on a very LONG BEACH. A sandy, quiet LONG BEACH. The Superintendent makes over $200,000. He also gets a car. Our previous superintendent is now retired. His final salary (at a different district) was $335,245 and his annual pension is now $267,132. (Did I mention he doesn't have to go to work any more?)

The school district system on Long Island segregates poor students into poor district and wealthy students into high performing ones. Having hundreds of small districts also creates false competition. The countywide districts in Maryland achieve superior results with services we can't offer (like magnet school) but pay far less because teachers can't defect to the district one town over.

Despite this, our districts' results are lackluster. My parents sent me to Catholic school because of their lack of confidence in the public high school system–and I know many more families like ours.

Mrs. Nurse delivers home care services to patients who do not need home care. She calls patients before she visits, and is told that they will not be there at that time as they are "shopping" or "going out to eat." She politely tells them that, no, they are not. They are homebound and she will show up at that time whether they like it or not.

Feb. 02 2011 10:26 AM

Of course, we have to tiptoe around the issue of the rich here. THEIR schools aren't feeling the crunch. I don't understand, in these times of austerity, why we're even discussing discontinuing the "millionaire's tax." It's hardly a progressive tax at all!

"Oh, but we can't risk scaring the rich out of our state!" the cry goes up from Mayor Moneybags.

Let them go, I say.

Feb. 02 2011 10:25 AM
charles harris from Isdland Heights NJ

The entire system has been made a dinasor by tfhe advent of IPAD and similar slates. Teaching from high school on can be done in computer cafes with procgtors assigned for different subjecgts. Some cafes can be for arts some for music. Students free to choose. Close the high schools and refit for the homeless.

Come on guys it is new world wakeup the little red school house is blue cyanotic and on a respirator

Feb. 02 2011 10:24 AM


Feb. 02 2011 10:22 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I briefly worked for an agency that helps people who have money apply for medicaid so they can get home health care on the taxpayer dollar. Can you speak to that?

Feb. 02 2011 10:17 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Governor Cuomo said that after the necessary cuts, they are relying on economic growth, in the long term, which makes sense. But we're missing lots of people in the 20-50 age group (abortion - see Demographic winter), these are the people from whom business innovation and jobs come from, so I don't see how economic growth will take place.

Feb. 02 2011 10:17 AM

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