Last month, E.J. McMahon participated in our grading of governors' State of the State Addresses, giving Cuomo an "incomplete" and saying that "The next grading period comes February 1, when he will present his first Executive Budget." Over at The Torch, E.J. takes a look at the now-released Executive Budget and says we're still not getting an extremely clear picture of Cuomo's intentions:
In the publishing business, the annotation "TK" is used in manuscripts to indicate some important piece of information is "to come." Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2011-12 Executive Budget is a book draft with an impressive cover and a promising theme: "Transformation." The premise is compelling: "We spend too much, we get too little, and it makes us economically uncompetitive." Yet in many chapters, the plot turns are still TK.
For example, Cuomo says the state will reduce Medicaid spending by $982 million (1.8 percent) on a year-to-year basis through reforms such as TK (to be determined by a Redesign Team including "stakeholders" from the the very industry groups and labor unions that feed on the bloated Medicaid program). The state will help localities cope with lower aid by repealing costly mandates, including TK (on which another Redesign Team will make recommendations). In light of declining inmate populations, he will consolidate TK prisons (a task force will recommend specific closures 30 days after the budget is due to be finalized). Spending on the state's workforce will be reduced as a result of an agreements by public employee unions to TK (with nearly 10,000 layoffs threatened if concessions are not forthcoming).
So it looks like New Yorkers are going to have to wait a little longer to know how transformative this year's budget really will be. One bright spot, as E.J. addresses, is Cuomo's abandonment of current-services baseline budgeting, the source of automatic cost escalators that inflate budget gaps far beyond the difference between last year's spending and this year's revenues.