Cuomo’s Lack Of Action May Come Back With A Bite

President Theodore Roosevelt, who served as governor of New York in 1899 and 1900, spoke often of the need to speak softly and carry a big stick.

It may be said of Gov. Andrew Cuomo that he speaks loudly and carries a limp noodle.

New York state finds itself facing a $6 billion budget deficit in part because the state hasn’t taken action over the past two years to confront a gap between the Medicaid budget and Medicaid spending that has left the program in dire financial straits. Over the past two years, Cuomo has ordered that Medicaid expenses from one state fiscal year be pushed into the next fiscal year so that the program could remain within its budget. Of course, such action is a short-term Band-Aid.

Medicaid isn’t the only area where the governor’s lack of action is coming back to bite him, however.

Public school officials in Chautauqua County are right to be frustrated with Cuomo’s 2020-21 education aid proposal. Cuomo was quick to say quite loudly on Jan. 21 that his budget proposal increased state aid to schools by 3%, with most of the increase in Foundation Aid. But most schools in Chautauqua County aren’t seeing anywhere close to a 3% increase in state aid. As area superintendents began looking at their proposed aid runs more closely, they found that categories for BOCES; hardware and technology; and software, library and textbook are no longer listed as line items for 2020-21 state aid reports. Instead, those three categories were included in the Foundation Aid category. At first glance, Foundation Aid went up. A closer inspection shows a fiscal shell game.

Those who called for billions of dollars more in education as part of this year’s state budget should have known that wasn’t going to happen. Much like the Medicaid budget is a mess because the state has put off making changes to bring the program into financial balance, this year’s disappointment over education aid is the byproduct of complacency over the past several years in education policy.

Billions more dollars in state aid is probably needed for state schools because the state refuses to change the status quo. Regional high school legislation has been bandied about the state Legislature for years but has never been approved. The state could be proactive and force mergers of small schools that are struggling to provide the courses their students need because they don’t have the money to provide electives as their school populations decline.

Cuomo has now, two years too late, decided to take action by reinstating his Medicaid Redesign Team to find ways to bring the state Medicaid budget back into line. Perhaps he should consider the same approach with schools.

Of course, knowing our governor, he’d talk loudly when announcing such a School Redesign Team and then carry a limp noodle when it came to implementing its recommendations.


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