Empire Center analysts are closely monitoring and reporting on the unfolding federal, state and local policy response to this coronavirus pandemic.
Our latest work, Empire Upward, outlines seven steps state officials must begin now to promote the recovery and renewal of New York’s economy.
In reverse chronological order, here are our latest blog posts, reports and media commentaries on the subject:
Charting NY’s fiscal collapse
E.J. McMahon and Bill Hammond, April 26
The Cuomo administration has gotten around to sharing detailed estimates of the pandemic’s impact on the state budget enacted almost a month ago—but the latest update from the Division of the Budget (DOB) raises about as many questions as it answers.
Amid Covid, a shaky state budget
E.J. McMahon and Ken Girardin, April 3
New 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.
Cuomo’s Stall: Gov Keeps Holding Off on Budget Cuts E.J. McMahon, New York Post, May 27 Show SummaryOn April 2, with New York’s COVID-19 curve still rising ominously, state lawmakers wrapped up a budget almost unchanged from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pre-pandemic January proposal. With the economy in a coma and revenues crashing, the plan obviously was awash in red ink.
Cuomo looks outside to track virus Ken Girardin, Blog, May 22 Show SummaryNew York State is deploying several thousand contact tracers, workers tasked with interviewing COVID-stricken residents and notifying the people they may have infected. But Governor Andrew Cuomo is taking a notable step that will likely make the effort faster and more efficient: he’s having someone else do the hiring.
Uneven ‘relief’ for NY providers Bill Hammond, Blog, May 19 Show SummaryA review of federal emergency payments to New York health-care providers reveals a striking disparity: Four of Manhattan’s most prosperous private hospitals collected more individually than the 11 city-owned hospitals combined.
NY jobless filings near 2 million E.J. McMahon, Blog, May 15 Show SummaryMeasured by COVID-19 cases, New York’s coronavirus crisis has been overwhelmingly concentrated downstate—but upstate has hardly been immune to the consequences of the widespread economic shutdown ordered to contain the spread of the virus.
More fiscal turmoil for Medicaid
Bill Hammond, Blog, April 24 Show SummaryIn a sign of pandemic-related strain on state finances, the Cuomo administration is postponing a series of multi-billion-dollar Medicaid payments over the next three months.
NYSUT wants a pony Ken Girardin, Blog, April 24 Show SummaryNew York State United Teachers (NYSUT) has a $1 trillion list of federal stimulus funding proposals—with specifics that illustrate both the union’s thirst for taxpayer money and its desire to influence public policy well beyond the classroom walls.
Upstate escapes the worst Bill Hammond, Blog, April 22 Show SummaryWith the coronavirus pandemic hitting some parts of New York much harder than others, Governor Cuomo has signaled that he will begin to relax shutdown restrictions in low-virus parts of the state.
Fed aid has begun flowing to NY E.J. McMahon, Blog, April 22 Show SummaryWhile Governor Cuomo continues to press for a bigger all-purpose federal bailout of the coronavirus-clobbered state budget, New York State already has reaped $5.5 billion in added federal aid from two emergency stimulus bills enacted by Congress last month, according to a report issued today by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office.
Washington shouldn’t fund NY’s “normal” budgets E.J. McMahon, New York Post, April 21 Show SummaryWith the coronavirus lockdown continuing to erode tax revenues, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has turned up the volume on his demands for a federal bailout of the New York state budget. In a weekend briefing, the governor repeated his estimate that the Empire State will need help closing a deficit of $10 billion to $15 billion. “I don’t have any funding to do what I normally do,” he said.
Why is NYC the epicenter? Bill Hammond, New York Daily News, April 17 Show SummaryIn case it wasn’t obvious from the headlines and body count, New York is currently suffering more severely from the coronavirus epidemic than almost anywhere else.
NY outlook: worse than 2008-09
E.J. McMahon, Blog, April 16 Show SummaryThe outlook for New York’s economy shapes up as the grimmest on record, according to the latest employment statistics, economic surveys and forecasts.
Why New York?
Bill Hammond, Blog, April 15 Show SummaryIt’s increasingly apparent that New York is suffering more severely from the coronavirus pandemic than any other part of the U.S. and most of the rest of the world – raising stark questions for city and state leaders.
Tax week rebooted
E.J. McMahon, Blog, April 15 Show SummaryThe case for fully restoring itemized federal income tax deductions for state and local taxes (SALT), now on Governor Cuomo’s federal pandemic bailout wishlist, is even weaker now than it was before the crisis crashed the economy and vastly expanded the federal budget deficit.
Cuomo freezing state pay
E.J. McMahon, Blog, April 9 Show SummaryGovernor Cuomo is invoking his “emergency” powers to unilaterally defer a 2 percent pay hike otherwise scheduled for most unionized state government workers during the new fiscal year.
State knew of UI shortcoming
Ken Girardin, Blog, April 7 Show SummaryThe coronavirus pandemic has been an acid test for government, revealing bureaucratic incompetencies, unnecessary regulations—and, in Albany, an agency that has failed to perform one of its central functions.
Winning last year’s battle
Bill Hammond, Blog, 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, Blog, 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, Blog, 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, Blog, 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, Blog, 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, Blog, March 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.
How the stimulus bill treats NY
E.J. McMahon, Blog, 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, Blog, 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, Blog, 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, Blog, 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, Blog, 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.
Are Cuomo’s hands tied on Medicaid?
Bill Hammond, Blog, March 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, Blog, 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, Blog, 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, Blog, 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, Blog, 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.
With revenues crashing, what next? E.J. McMahon, Blog, 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, Blog, 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, Blog, March 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, Blog, 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.