For starters, the Buffalo News’ Tom Precious has pinned down the fact that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature’s leaders “closed” much of the budget’s deficit by simply changing their estimates of revenues and outlays.
With a snap of their fingers and a wave of their magic wand, they increased the expected tax revenue by $750 million, then cut the initial spending estimate for the year by $250 million.
Hundreds of millions came from various one-shot sources, including more than half a billion the state is demanding to let the Catholic bishops sell the nonprofit Fidelis health plan to a for-profit company.
Sadly, as the Empire Center’s E.J. McMahon notes, such gimmicks are now a routine part of the process, though the budget game this year was “even more rushed, secretive, confused and sloppy than usual.”
And it all allowed spending, which Cuomo claims was held within his 2 percent growth cap, to actually rise closer to 4 percent.
Worse, as McMahon warns, this likely leaves the state with a structural budget gap — the amount of permanent, underlying spending not covered by revenue — for the next fiscal year of $3.5 billion.
By then, though, Cuomo expects to be safely re-elected and setting his sights on the White House. Leaving taxpayers, as usual, holding the bag for Albany’s perennial bag of tricks.