Greg David

Remember how Andrew Cuomo won a decisive victory for governor in 2010 and swept into Albany determined to fix things? He tackled a $10 billion budget deficit (while explaining it was really a $7 billion deficit over the previous year as an example of truth telling). He recruited top-notch talent to solve big problems such as the state’s rapidly increasing spending on Medicaid.

Things have really changed in the near decade he’s been in office.

Let’s start with Medicaid. In March, with Medicaid spending running far over budget, the governor quietly delayed into April a $2 billion payment due to providers. April is the start of the new fiscal year, so the move technically kept Medicaid spending under the cap that he’d instituted. The maneuver was discovered only a few months later, when sharp-eyed journalist Bill Hammond found a line about the payment delay in a budget document.

Last week Hammond looked at the numbers again and reported that by the halfway point in the fiscal year, the state has spent 61% of the Medicaid allocation, meaning New York is likely to end the year with a $3 billion shortfall in the budget. So far the administration has been conspicuously silent about what it intends to do about the problem.

News also broke last week that as part of an agreement on how much to raise Con Edison’s rates, the utility has agreed to foot the bill for $240 million in subway repairs it was not previously responsible for. Of course, Con Ed isn’t really paying. It is passing the cost along to its customers. This sleight of hand, which is essentially levying a tax without legislative approval, has gotten very little attention, with the New York Post as one of the few media outlets to report on it.

Speaking of the MTA, there is last week’s near resignation of NYC Transit President Andy Byford. He had finally had enough of Cuomo constantly interfering with his job of fixing the subways, needless meddling that merely reflects the governor’s long-running bid to convince the public that he is the savior of the transit system.

Cuomo’s aides convinced Byford to stay, but nothing like this happened in the early years of the Cuomo era. Right after the 2010 election, he lured Jason Helgerson from Wisconsin, where he had reformed an out-of-control political system, told him to do the same in New York and came up with the political strategy to make it work.

I don’t think there is any chance the “good” Cuomo will return. But at least the governor does care about media criticism and his poll numbers. That’s the only way to keep him on the right path.

© 2019 Crain’s New York

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