Gov. Andrew Cuomo says New York state has a revenue problem.
Upon hearing this, thousands of New Yorkers, including many home and business owners living right here in Western New York, immediately came up with a simple solution: Stop spending so much money.
It’s not that the people who pay the taxes in New York are all brilliant when it comes to financing and budgeting.
It’s just that many of them know full well what it’s like to struggle to earn enough revenue to sustain themselves and their households.
Unlike state leaders like Cuomo, they can’t just dip into a pool of money over here or a pocket of dollars over there and find ways to plug gaps in their own budgets.
When they don’t have enough revenue, millions of New York state residents simply add another source of income or cut expenses to make due.
In a state where he himself introduced a proposed spending plan totaling $175.2 billion, surely there’s a way for his administration, working with state lawmakers, to close a $2.3 billion funding gap.
The governor said Monday that his office will need to revise his 2019-20 spending plan for the state due to a dramatic drop in state income tax revenue of $2.8 billion. Possible areas to cut include schools, road and bridge maintenance and health care.
“At this point there is no doubt that the budget we put forward is not supported by the revenues,” Cuomo said at a State Capitol news conference. “It’s as serious as a heart attack.”
Not if the proper cuts are made.
Cuomo isn’t exactly shy when it comes to spending.
Hardly a day goes by when his office doesn’t send out press releases to statewide media, announcing more spending on some new initiative or another.
This is the same administration that invested $750 million in state money in the SolarCity project in Buffalo, a much-ballyhooed project that Cuomo touted as a sign of economic upturn in Erie County and one that has become more synonymous with graft and corruption than prosperity. The project is sadly best known today for its ties to a well-publicized bid-rigging scheme that led to indictments and jail time for several of the players who were involved.
The Albany think tank, the Empire Center, released a report in May of last year that took note of New York surpassing all states with per-pupil elementary and secondary school spending of $22,366 per pupil as of 2016, according to the most recent U.S. Census data available at that time.
The report noted that Empire State spent 90 percent more than the U.S. average of $11,762, up from 86 percent above average in 2015. The education spending gap between the Empire State and the national average has grown dramatically over the past 20 years, the Empire Center noted.
What do you mean there’s a revenue problem?
No one would argue with sound public investment in worthwhile causes like education and economic development.
In New York, where results have often lagged behind costs, it is reasonable for taxpayers to question what state leaders, Cuomo included, do with all that cash every year.
To point to a decline in revenue as the primary factor contributing to a $2.8 billion budget gap when the state’s overall budget is now in excess of $175 billion is insulting to average New Yorkers who have been forced to find creative ways to live within their means year after year.
From our perspective, New York doesn’t have a revenue problem.
What it lacks is what the state has lacked for years — a governor and members of the state legislature who are capable of making the tough decisions that are necessary to reduce costs today and over the long-term.
© 2019 Niagara Gazette