But fiscal watchdogs didn't see it that way. E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center for Public Policy, one of the fiscal monitoring groups at the Capitol Tuesday, said the Cuomo administration's leisurely way of releasing budget documents - including key pieces of legislation needed to pass to make up the fiscal plan's specifics - was a show of "contempt for the public, the taxpayers and the Legislature. Every year this process gets murkier and less transparent."
“The Assembly’s whole theory on this is it’s not a spending problem, it’s a revenue problem,” said Bill Hammond, the director of health policy at the Empire Center, a conservative think tank. “The whole idea that you would use a carrot and stick to control Medicaid costs, I think it’s a nonstarter.”
E.J. McMahon of the fiscally conservative Empire Center said the budget must reflect that the state has a spending problem, not a shortage of revenue.
He said Cuomo can’t just “paper over” this year’s deficit by tapping reserves and employing gimmicks such as one-shot, nonrecurring revenues, but must institute long-term spending cuts and efficiencies in the budget so deficits don’t deepen in bad economic times.
A report last year by the Albany-based Empire Center indicates that for fiscal year 2017-18, the Schenectady police force had the highest average pay at $94,817 for cities in the Capital Region and upstate New York, slightly above the statewide average.
Albany-based think tank Empire Center attributed it in part to rising Medicaid enrollment, the minimum wage increase and a budget gimmick used earlier this year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to delay paying Medicaid costs. Closing the gap in 2020 will likely require major cuts to medical services, or a plan to find enough savings elsewhere in the budget.
Bill Hammond, health policy director for the Empire Center for Public Policy, offered a different take on the state's Medicaid spending. In a recent report, he pointed out the state, by 2016, was spending $3,236 per resident on its Medicaid program, 79 percent above the national average.
Cuomo’s first MRT made “real progress” and could do so again, said Bill Hammond, director of health policy for the Empire Center, a fiscally conservative think tank.
But much depends on the team, Hammond said.
“If it’s structured that same way, where the biggest recipients of Medicaid money are running the show, and the global cap has been weakened, and the governor’s political capital on this issue is diminished, the question is how effective will that be,” he said.
Cuomo quietly increased Medicaid payments by 2 percent to hospitals and 1.5 percent to nursing homes just before Election Day in 2018 at a time when Medicaid spending was running hundreds of millions of dollars higher than expected, according to a report by the Empire Center, an Albany think tank. Cuomo than reversed course and cut most Medicaid payments by 1 percent early this year.