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April 15, 2014

Budget nudges up NY tax ranking, a little bit

E.J. McMahon

The Tax Foundation, which ranked New York dead last on its latest annual State Business Tax Climate Index, today issued a highly complimentary analysis of the corporate tax reduction and reforms enacted as part of 2014-15 New York State budget. However, while it called the corporate tax changes “impressive,” the Tax Foundation also made it clear that the state’s business tax climate still has plenty of room for improvement.


Filed under: Budgets, Taxes

April 8, 2014

Touching the bases on the budget

E.J. McMahon

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling New York’s newly enacted budget a “Grand Slam.” But while the fiscal 2014-15 spending plan enacted last week certainly can’t be written off as the worst swing and miss ever, it’s far from a base-clearing, walk-off home run.

Prolonging the metaphorical torture, here are some budget scoring notes from a taxpayers’ perspective.


Filed under: Budgets, Uncategorized

March 10, 2014

Move over Jimmy Fallon…

Dave Lombardo

As if $420 million in annual handouts to the film and television industries wasn’t enough, New York State legislators are now proposing to give millions to the music industry and Broadway.

Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, D-Brooklyn, introduced legislation creating a music credit that would reimburse 20 percent of production expenses, including artists’ royalties, session fees, music videos and marketing, and would cost New York up to $60 million a year. Theater fans are getting some love from Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, and Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, who crafted a $5 million credit for 30 percent of a show’s production costs in an attempt to attract touring theater companies to upstate locations. 


January 22, 2014

The evolving $2 billion education bond

Dave Lombardo

The seemingly slapdash nature of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed $2 billion education bond was reinforced during Tuesday’s budget address when the gambit got a makeover.

Unveiled by the governor two weeks ago during the State of the State address as an initiative to provide “the technology of tomorrow today,” the bond will be stretched further with an undetermined portion now repurposed for the construction of new prekindergarten classrooms. This latest twist appears to be driven by Cuomo’s push for full-day pre-k across the state, which (as he acknowledged) will cause an influx of students that some school districts can’t currently accommodate.


Filed under: Budgets

January 21, 2014

About that “surplus”…

E.J. McMahon

The last update to New York State’s financial plan, issued in early November, projected state operating funds budget gaps as far as the eye could see. Nothing new there: out-year projected shortfalls have been a feature of state budgets in New York since the current accounting system was enacted 30 years ago, and Governor Cuomo could accurately argue the gaps have gotten smaller on his watch.

But starting a few months ago, the governor began making a much bolder claim. The state, he said, would have a $2 billion budget surplus within the next budget window. He would accomplish this, he said, by holding spending growth to 2 percent a year.

In the broadest terms, the math of that promise added up. If you took the financial plan table from November, and allowed projected spending to grow by only 2 percent a year, and kept projected receipts the same, you’d have a surplus of better than $2 billion by the end of the period.

However, leading up to today’s budget presentation, the question was: how would he actually achieve this? With 40 percent of state operating funds expenditures tied up in school aid and Medicaid, and thus presumably off limits to reduction, and with the attrited-down state workforce now entering a contractual phase in which base pay raises are due after a three-year freeze, and with other hunks of spending in tough-to-reduce categories like pensions and debt service, where would the governor choose to find additional savings necessary to turn a projected 2017 budget gap of nearly $3 billion into a “surplus of $2 billion?

The answer: he hasn’t.  Not really.


Filed under: Budgets, Uncategorized

December 23, 2013

So much for the school aid cap?

E.J. McMahon

When Gov. Cuomo won passage of what he described as a “historic” and “transformational” budget early in his tenure, one of the key details he touted was the enactment of a permanent state law capping annual increases in school aid to the rate of growth in personal income.

This action will help reduce the state’s large out-year gap between spending and revenues,” the governor’s March 2011 press release explained.

Now, after agreeing to boost state school aid above the cap in this year’s budget, the governor is all but promising to do the same in 2014-15.


Filed under: Budgets, School Finance

November 8, 2013

Cuomo finally issues mid-year financial update

E.J. McMahon

Eight days past the statutory deadline, Governor Cuomo’s Division of the Budget (DOB) has finally released a required mid-year update to the state financial plan.

The report is not only late for a third consecutive year; at first glance, in what’s becoming a Cuomo administration tradition, it features minimal new information. For example, the 2014-15 budget gap is still projected at $1.7 billion, even though data from state Comptroller DiNapoli’s office suggest it will be much smaller. More analysis to follow in this space.

Meanwhile, and probably not by coincidence, DiNapoli was the only player in the state budget development process who met Wednesday’s deadline for issuing revenue estimates in advance of next Friday’s statutory deadline for a Quick Start consensus forecast. The Senate Finance and Assembly Ways & Means Committee staffs, on both the majority and minority sides, are overdue in preparing their revenue estimates, presumably awaiting the Mid-Year report and DOB’s 2013 Economic, Spending and Revenue Methodologies report, also released today .


November 4, 2013

Cuomo late again with key financial disclosure

E.J. McMahon

For a third consecutive year, Governor Andrew Cuomo is late in issuing a mid-year update to New York State’s financial plan.

The governor is thus once again in violation of Section 23 of the State Finance Law, which requires him to update the financial plan “within 30 days of the close of a quarter to which it pertains.” That would have been last Wednesday.


August 20, 2013

One small step

Tim Hoefer

Reportedly, the terms of a tentative agreement between the teachers’ union and board of education in Westchester’s Bedford Central School District would do away with step increases for newly hired teachers.

For years, school boards (and mayors and other local government officials, for that matter) have been clamoring for repeal of the Triborough Amendment – which allows for automatic “step” pay increases even after collectively-bargained contracts expire — as a way to help reign in spending. Under Triborough, employers are at a distinct disadvantage in the bargaining process as there’s no impetus for employee groups to accept anything less than what the law guarantees in step increases. (more…)

July 29, 2013

Cuomo continues institutional downsizing

E.J. McMahon

Governor Andrew Cuomo has little hope of closing the state’s projected budget gaps over the next few years if he doesn’t continue to clamp a tight lid on state operations costs — and to that end, he’s pushing for the closure and consolidation of more state prisons and institutions for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled.

"Shock" grads at Monterey

Monterey "shock" grads marching

The latest shoe to drop is the closure of four more correctional facilities, which is expected to generate a savings of $30 million a year. The move was announced last Friday, ensuring it received limited attention in weekend news media coverage. From a budgetary standpoint, however, Cuomo deserves more attention and credit for his institutional downsizing moves—even though he isn’t promoting them with anything approaching the hype he reserves for, say, token “tax cuts” in a budget that actually raised overall taxes.


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