It’s all well and good that Assembly and Senate leaders have agreed on a “roadmap” towards adopting a budget by April 1, including a March 15 deadline for passing one-house budget resolutions and forming conference committees, and a March 28 deadline for issuing joint conference committee reports. But when state lawmakers reach the end of the road, how will they know where they are?

Lawmakers won’t know what they are actually voting to spend, or how these figures compare with what the governor proposed, unless they are presented with an updated financial plan before taking up the budget bills.  In the absence of such a plan, it will be impossible to say for sure whether the 2011-12 budget agreement has added to the shortfalls initially projected by Governor Cuomo for fiscal years 2012-13 through 2014-15.

In its most basic form, the financial plan consists of tables detailing projected spending and revenues in major categories, further broken down by fund type.  The governor issues such a plan when he presents his Executive Budget. The Division of the Budget (DOB) customarily updates the plan 30 days after the budget is adopted. (See sample table at bottom of this post, from the Enacted Budget Report. Ideally, there would be one table each for General Fund, State Operating Funds, and All Funds.)

Unfortunately — incredibly, when you come right down to it — state lawmakers do not have this crucial information available to them when they vote on budget bills.  The Senate has occasionally taken a stab at producing a financial plan summary, but the format has been incomplete and inconsistent. In some recent years, the Assembly has distributed to members (but not the public) its own summary rundown of major changes to the governor’s budget proposal.  But there never has been an agreed-upon financial plan table clearly breaking down the final and proposed budget, much less projecting adjusted amounts of spending and revenues for the three out years of the plan.

The Legislature’s consistent failure to produce an updated financial plan to accompany final budget bills is a major shortcoming of the state’s budget process. The need for such information has become even more important now that Governor Cuomo says he wants to discard the traditional financial plan model, which projected automatic spending increases in future years based on a continuation of “current-law” formulas.

Cuomo should pledge to have DOB help the legislative fiscal committee staffs generate a preliminary plan update based on the agreed-upon budget bills. And if the legislative leaders won’t commit to producing a financial plan update, he should order DOB to do it anyway–before the vote.


About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is Empire Center's founder and a senior fellow.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

You may also like

State Offers Taxpayer-Funded Health Coverage to Unionized Home Care Workers

In a new subsidy for the health-care union 1199 SEIU, the Hochul administration is allowing the union's benefit fund for home care aides to shift some members into taxpayer-funded health coverage through the Essential Plan. Read More

A Closer Look at $4 Billion in State Capital Grants to Health Providers

The state has awarded $4.3 billion in health-care capital grants over the past decade, with a disproportionate share flowing to upstate providers, Health Department records show. Th Read More

NY’s net taxpayer migration loss dropped a bit in 2021-22, latest IRS data show

The outflow of New York taxpayers to the rest of the country subsided from the previous year's record high during the second tax-filing period following the March 2020 COVID-19 outbreak, according to the latest (IRS). Read More

Hochul’s Pandemic Study Is a $4.3 Million Flop

The newly released study of New York's coronavirus pandemic response falls far short of what Governor Hochul promised – and the state urgently needs – in the aftermath of its worst natural disaster in modern history. Read More

NY’s biggest public pension fund gained nearly 12% in FY 2024

Rebounding from its biggest loss since the Global Financial Crisis, New York's Common Retirement Fund realized a strong investment gain of 11.55 percent in fiscal year 2024, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced. The Fund, which now stands just below $268 billion, supports pensions paid to members of the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS). Read More

82 Questions Hochul’s Pandemic Report Should Answer

This is the month when New Yorkers are due to finally receive an official report on the state's response to the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the deadliest disasters in state history. T Read More

The Real Lack of Courage Driving NYC Congestion Pricing

Governor Hochul is taking heat after postponing the state’s years-old plan to charge drivers to enter lower Manhattan. As critics slam her for lacking “political courage,” it’s an appropriate time to examine some of the underlying issues that congestion pricing was meant to indirectly mitigate—because many if not most advocates were afraid to touch those issues themselves. And if congestion pricing proponents are to be taken at their word about their concern for MTA finances, or traffic, or air quality, they must show some of the same courage they’ve accused the governor of lacking. Read More

To Encourage Recycling, Pols Move To Trash The Legislature

New York state lawmakers in recent years have surrendered some of their policymaking and taxing powers to the executive branch. With the 2024 legislative session coming to close, they’re poised to go even further and turn those powers over to an organization outside of government entirely. Read More