After Congress passed the COVID-19 relief bill, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer announced that New York would receive $12.6 billion and would not have to raise taxes.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed and added that proposed cuts in spending could be eliminated from his proposed budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year.
These declarations, however, did not impress Democrats in the state Legislature. Spending $194 billion was just not enough. Proposals floating around Albany called for a 22 percent increase in spending — 10 times the inflation rate.
In ordinary times, calls for preposterous and unsustainable spending would not be an issue for Cuomo.
Because the budget process in New York is very different from the federal government’s process. In Washington, the president proposes a budget plan, but Congress is free to do whatever it wants with it. In New York, the state Constitution gives the governor responsibility for drafting the budget.
Under this system, the governor deals from his budgetary deck of cards and the Legislature must play the hand dealt to it. The Legislature has the power to “take action,” which means that it can accept the governor’s budget as is or it can reduce spending, eliminate spending or add to a spending measure. However, the governor can exercise his veto power to reject any of these spending changes.
Hence, Cuomo has the upper hand in negotiations with legislative leaders.
An additional power the governor possesses: He can fire the friends, relatives and political cronies of assemblymen and senators who are employed in the inner sanctums of the state government.
In past years, Cuomo, like many of his predecessors, was not afraid to use his budgetary and political power to convince recalcitrant legislators to fall into line.
But this year has been different. For the first time in 11 years, the governor has surrendered to the fiscally reckless demands of Democrat legislators.
The $212 billion budget he agreed to increases spending by $18 billion—a 10 percent hike—and increases taxes by $4 billion:
• For New York’s highest earners, the state income tax will rise to 10.9 percent.
• The capital gains tax will add on a 1 percent surtax.
• Estate taxes will jump from 16 percent to 20 percent for estates valued over $10.1
• The corporate franchise tax will be 7.25 percent, up from 6.5 percent.
Analyzing the tax hikes, E.J. McMahon of The Empire Center for Public Policy, concluded: “The financial incentive for high earners to move themselves and their businesses from New York to states with low or no income taxes has never ever been higher than it already is.”
As for spending, there’s plenty of pork:
• $385 million appropriated for the State and Municipal Facilities Program. These funds, The Empire Center reports, “can be used to underwrite almost any capital construction or equipment purchase a state or local politician can think of, including the vast category of privately sponsored ‘economic development’ projects.” In other words, corporate welfare for favored constituents;
• $2.1 billion for undocumented immigrants without jobs;
• $23 million for local community “restorative justice” programs;
• $300 million for farmland preservation and botanical gardens and zoos;
• $4.6 million for “the retention of professional football in Western New York”;
• $125 thousand to promote N.Y. grown Christmas trees;
• $50 thousand for N.Y. hop growers to promote hops;
• $108 million to develop the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx;
• $43 million for the N.Y. Council of the Arts and $1 million for “arts stabilization grants”—whatever that is.
And as tens of thousands of New Yorkers—who lost their jobs due to Cuomo shutting down the state’s economy—search for employment, the budget provides $175 million in raises for those who suffered least financially—state workers.
During his first 10 years in office, the fiscally prudent governor kept the growth of budgetary spending to an average of 2 percent annually.
So why did he sign on to a 10 percent increase?
Answer: He’s politically weak thanks to scandals haunting his administration.
Hence, Cuomo may believe giving into the radicals may slow down the Legislature’s investigation into his behavior and may thwart impeachment proceedings.
To save his political hide, the governor agreed to fund cockamamie legislative proposals and to throw overburdened taxpayers “under the bus.”
Andrew Cuomo—a profile in courage?
I think not.