Eight days past the statutory deadline, Governor Cuomo’s Division of the Budget (DOB) has finally released a required mid-year update to the state financial plan.

The report is not only late for a third consecutive year; at first glance, in what’s becoming a Cuomo administration tradition, it features minimal new information. For example, the 2014-15 budget gap is still projected at $1.7 billion, even though data from state Comptroller DiNapoli’s office suggest it will be much smaller. More analysis to follow in this space.

Meanwhile, and probably not by coincidence, DiNapoli was the only player in the state budget development process who met Wednesday’s deadline for issuing revenue estimates in advance of next Friday’s statutory deadline for a Quick Start consensus forecast. The Senate Finance and Assembly Ways & Means Committee staffs, on both the majority and minority sides, are overdue in preparing their revenue estimates, presumably awaiting the Mid-Year report and DOB’s 2013Economic, Spending and Revenue Methodologies report, also released today.

Under Section 23.4 of the State Finance Law, the Mid-Year update was due Oct. 30.  The report was two weeks late in 2011 and 29 days behind schedule last year. There wasn’t a timely consensus forecast in either of Cuomo’s first two years as governor.

The Mid-Year Update represents a significant point in the state’s April 1-March 31 fiscal year. Assuming DOB doesn’t choose to conceal too much, the report can provide an early sense of the state’s ability to hit its revenue and spending targets in the current year, and of trends that will affect the budget for next year.

If the report is held back or contains almost no real update in New York’s fiscal status, that itself can be a telling indicator of a governor’s unwillingness to draw attention to developing trends, especially bad trends in an election. In 1994, for example, then-Gov. Mario Cuomo sat on a mid-year budget update that would have called attention to a growing hole in the state budget. It was only after losing the 1994 election that Cuomo released the report and George Pataki discovered he was inheriting a budget gap of at least $4 billion. Eight years later, with Pataki seeking his third term as governor, DOB issued the report on time–but the sketchy document gave almost no hint of a massive looming budget gap, which was acknowledged only after he had been re-elected, although at least one legislative leader publicly warned of it well ahead of time.

For what it’s worth, the 2014 gubernatorial election will be held four days after the mid-year report is due, but Andrew Cuomo already has developed a habit of being later than that.

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

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

Read more by E.J. McMahon

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