#NYCoronaVirus Chronicles

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Empire Center analysts are closely monitoring and reporting on the unfolding federal, state and local policy response to this coronavirus pandemic.  In reverse chronological order, here are our latest blog posts, reports and media commentaries on the subject:

Amid Covid, a shaky state budget
E.J. McMahon and Ken Girardin, April 3
Show SummaryNew York has just enacted a pandemic-crisis budget that might as well have been written in disappearing ink—shakily “balanced” on hopes of a huge federal bailout and ultimately backstopped by the potential for unprecedented deficit borrowing.

Winning last year’s battle
Bill Hammond, NY Torch, April 3
Show SummaryThe new state budget finally takes credible steps to address the Medicaid crisis of recent history. What’s missing is a clear plan for weathering the far larger crisis of the present and future.

Budget includes a borrowing binge
E.J. McMahon, NYTorch, April 2
Show SummaryThe Legislature isn’t just delegating emergency spending control powers to Governor Cuomo as part of the new state budget.  It’s also handing him a deficit-financing credit card with an $11 billion limit.

The axeman cometh (but not yet)
E.J. McMahon, NYTorch, April 1
Show SummaryThe coronavirus pandemic has just claimed its first big institutional victim: the New York State Legislature, which handed Governor Cuomo broad and unprecedented leeway to “adjust or reduce” state spending in the fiscal year that began today. Not that lawmakers had much choice. For now, the FY 2021 budget still doesn’t cut spending.

Medicaid still needs Fixing
Bill Hammond, NY Torch, March 30
Show SummaryThe world has changed since Governor Cuomo tasked his Medicaid Redesign Team with finding $2.5 billion in savings to help balance the state budget. Yet even in light of the coronavirus pandemic, many of the panel’s recommendations still make sense – and are arguably more necessary than ever.

NY’s health taxes add insult to injury
Bill Hammond, New York Post, March 30
Show SummaryNorthern New York farmer Russ Finley is one of the millions of Americans who make do without health insurance. After an injury inducing accident, he stumbled onto one of Albany’s dirtiest little secrets — an addiction to taxing health care, which has gotten steadily worse over the past quarter-century.

Taylor Law ties up COVID response
Ken Girardin, NYTorch, March 30
Show SummaryWhen it comes to responding to the coronavirus, New York is likely to struggle with a pre-existing condition: the Taylor Law. Governor Andrew Cuomo has the authority to suspend portions of the Taylor Law—and to preserve vital public services, he should.

NY is shorted on virus relief
Bill Hammond, NYTorchMarch 29
Show SummaryAlthough New York is taking the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic – with 43 percent of the nation’s known cases and 40 percent of the deaths – the state is due to receive only 5 percent of a $150 billion “relief fund” established in Washington.

Tax cap: more crucial than ever
E.J. McMahon, NYTorchMarch 27
Show SummaryAs New Yorkers face massive job losses, falling incomes, sagging property values and widespread economic insecurity, they’ll have one layer of protection they sorely lacked in the last downturn: a tight cap on local property tax levies, enacted at Governor Cuomo’s initiative in 2011.

How the stimulus bill treats NY
E.J. McMahon, NYTorch, March 26
Show SummaryThe $2 trillion federal stimulus bill on its way to passage today does not actually shortchange New York in any general sense—but it does dash Governor Cuomo’s vain hopes for a budget bailout, which is why he is so unhappy about it.

Amid crisis, state to hike pay
Ken Girardin, NYTorch, March 25
Show SummaryWith state revenues crashing and joblessness skyrocketing, more than a third of the New York state government workforce is scheduled to get a 2 percent pay raise in less than a week.

Taxpayers must have access
Tim Hoefer, NYTorch March 24
Show SummaryWhile daily life has been disrupted, essential functions must go on amid the coronavirus crisis—including the budgeting process for the state’s nearly 700 school districts.

Transparency is an antiviral
Ken Girardin, NYTorch, March 23
Show SummaryAs they make their now-routine announcements about new cases of coronavirus, some New York health officials have been publicizing the public places and events that the infected people visited, to put others on notice about their own possible exposure.

NY’s coming capital gains crash 
E.J. McMahon, NYTorch, March 23
Show SummaryAs the old saying goes, the stock market is not the economy—but in New York, it’s an extra-big chunk of the economy, and of the state tax base as well. The ongoing pandemic-driven carnage on Wall Street is a big reason why Albany’s tax receipts are expected to fall at least $7 billion short of Governor Cuomo’s original budget estimate for FY 2021.

Why NY needs to freeze pay hikes for govt workers
Editorial, New York Post, March 23
Show SummaryWith much of New York’s economy shut down and millions of taxpayers likely to depend on federal “emergency support” payments to make it through, an immediate pay freeze for all state and local government employees is a must.

Are Cuomo’s hands tied on Medicaid?
Bill Hammond, NYTorchMarch 22
Show SummaryIf recent history is any guide, the strings attached to federal coronavirus funding should be less of a problem for New York State than Governor Cuomo seems to think.

COVID numbers in context 
Bill Hammond, NYTorch, March 20
Show SummaryNew York has emerged as the nation’s coronavirus hot spot, with more diagnosed cases per million than any other state. It has 294 cases per million residents, about seven times the national level, according to an analysis of data gathered by Johns Hopkins University.

If only they had listened
E.J. McMahon, NYTorch, March 20
Show SummaryNew York is going to run out of cash more rapidly than most states—and Governor Cuomo can’t say he wasn’t warned of Albany’s extreme vulnerability on this front.

Freeze public-sector wages. Now.
E.J. McMahon, NYTorch, March 19
Show SummaryNew York will need to make massive budget cuts, and there’s an obvious place to star: Freeze state and local government employee pay. The combined estimated savings for every level of government would come to at least $1.9 billion in the next year.

Albany’s spreading school budget fog
E.J. McMahon, NY Torch, March 18
Show SummaryAlbany’s biggest unanswered budget question involves the biggest single item in the State Operating Funds (SOF) budget: school aid.  The next budget can’t be balanced without scrapping Governor Cuomo’s proposed $631 million increase and spending less.

A draft Medicaid redesign emerges
Bill Hammond, NYTorch, March 18
Show SummaryTightening eligibility for Medicaid home care and implementing a further across-the-board rate reduction are among 41 cost-cutting measures being contemplated by Governor Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign Team, according to a draft executive summary and scorecard obtained by the Empire Center.

With revenues crashing, what next?
E.J. McMahon, NYTorch, March 17
Show SummaryThanks to the coronavirus emergency, New York State tax revenues in the coming fiscal year will be $4 billion to $7 billion lower than projected, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli estimates.

NYS Will Soon Need A Fiscal Ventilator
E.J. McMahon, New York Post, March 16
Show SummaryWith any luck, the coronavirus will be a fading memory by summer. But by then, massive (if temporary) damage will already have been done to the state and regional economies. The Empire State and its local governments, including Gotham, will have to confront a fiscal crisis as intense as the current public-health emergency.

The price of procrastination
Bill Hammond, NYTorch, March 15
Show SummaryAs they struggle to contain the coronavirus outbreak on the eve of their budget deadline, the state’s elected leaders have run out of good options for dealing with Medicaid.

Cuomo (finally) nods to the obvious
E.J. McMahon, NYTorchMarch 10
Show SummaryNot a moment too soon, Governor Cuomo has gotten around to acknowledging that a near-panic in financial markets amid rising fears of a global economic slowdown should prompt a re-set in the state’s revenue forecast for the fiscal year that begins April 1, less than three weeks from now.

A sunny forecast in cloudy times
E.J. McMahon, NYTorch, March 2
Show Summary“Hope for the best and prepare for the worst” is a favorite saying of Governor Cuomo, who has rolled it out again to describe how the state will deal with the Coronavirus.

The Viral Threat to NY’s Budget
E.J. McMahon, New York Post, Feb. 28
Show SummaryThis week’s stock-market plunge amid mounting fears of a global economic slowdown triggered by the coronavirus couldn’t come at a more crucial time in New York state’s budget-making process.

Cuomo’s odd meltdown silence
E.J. McMahon, NYTorch, Feb. 28
Show SummaryAmid growing fears that a coronavirus pandemic will severely disrupt the global economy, and with the stock market heading for its biggest weekly losses since the 2008 financial crisis, Governor Cuomo has been oddly quiet about the obvious budget implications.