Legislature Has Little Choice But To Act On Budget
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has spent months waiting for the federal government — the same federal government the state has sued more times than we can remember, by the way — to come to New York’s rescue with a COVID stimulus package.
Starting back in April, when the state passed a $177 billion budget that wasn’t worth the paper upon which it was printed, Cuomo and the state Legislature put almost all of the state’s financial eggs in Congress’ basket.
State officials will say they have already reduced spending by $4 billion this year by freezing pay increases, hiring, new contracts and temporarily withholding payments to service agencies and schools. This year, that only qualifies as a baby step in the context of a $14 billion budget deficit.
Ordinarily, we could see the sense in waiting a bit longer, but the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg makes us wonder if the fight over Ginsburg’s replacement means Cuomo and the state Legislature can wait no longer. This is a Congress that hasn’t been able to get stimulus done expiditiously when stimulus was the biggest topic in the room. Why should anyone believe they can do two big things at once? We don’t, even with a serviceable middle ground proposed by U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, and the Problem Solvers Caucus.
We’re not sure how much longer Cuomo and the legislature can wait on Congress. Many local budgets will be up for discussion over the next two months, and often decisions in Albany have significant financial ramifications locally. If program aid included in the state budget in April isn’t going to be available in January, then local officials need to know that as they prepare budgets. If programs have to be cut, then the people who rely on those programs need to know so they can plan.
When Cuomo spoke at the Democratic National Convention back in August, he said, “Americans’ eyes have been opened and we’ve seen the truth: That government matters and leadership matters.”
It’s time to lead New Yorkers through this financial crisis, Mr. Governor. Come up with two plans if you want — one that involves federal stimulus and one without. The time for speeches, finger pointing and partisan sniping are over. Convene the two men and a woman in a room and figure a way out of this mess.