On Tuesday January 17, 2012 Gov. Cuomo presented his 2012 Budget proposal to New Yorkers with a focus on entrepreneurial government. New York NOW covered the Budget Address LIVE and was joined by Robert Ward Deputy Director of the Rockeffeler Institute of Government for analysis.
Gov. Cuomo prefaced the Budget Address with the concept of reinvention of the government so that it will work better for the people of New York. Outlining his 2012 - 2013 Executive Budget and Reform Plan Cuomo called out the following key areas of focus: economic development, re-imagining government, mandate relief, and the education crisis.
Deeming this year's budget as 'refreshingly straightforward,' Cuomo noted the given areas of spending including 4.1% for education, 4% for Medicaid, 2.2% SUNY/CUNY, a 2% spending cap, and the $2 billion deficit. Cuomo's proposal to close the deficit is a continuation of the principals from last year's budget comprising of no selling of the state's assets, no new fees and no new taxes. Fiscal discipline, real reform and an entrepreneurial government echo Cuomo's aim for an 'honest' 2012 budget.
Gov. Cuomo notes that the budget is part of a 2 step plan including the elimination of all inflators this year and the addition of performance and cost indices next year.
State Agency Operation funding including the Office of the Attorney General, the Office of the State Comptroller and the Office of Court Administration will be flat this year as will the AIM program. TANF Basic Assistance will receive a 5% increase, public assistance will receive 1.3%, and total aid to localities will be 2.6%. All of these items contribute to eliminating the $2 billion deficit.
Gov. Cuomo went on to explain how the government will spur private sector job growth and limit government spending by creating public/private sector partnerships that leverage state resources and assets to generate billions in economic growth. This 'entrepreneurial government' will be achieved by the New York Works Fund/Infrastructure Cuomo introduced in his State of the State Address. Priority building projects including bridges, roads, parks, and flood control will create jobs and utilize state, federal, authority, and private funds. The new convention center and Javits transformation, energy highways, gaming, the $1 billion for Buffalo comprise the economic development blueprint that will meld the government and private sector to help generate funds for New York.
Gov. Cuomo's re-imagining of the government would include an evaluation of state programs that would then be merged or consolidated into similar programs thus eliminating spending and redundant or obsolete programs.
Gov. Cuomo also proposes a healthcare redesign to enact the federal health exchange which would cover uninsured New Yorkers who cannot afford coverage, reduce insurance costs to covered individuals, and reduce spending for small businesses.
The proposed Mandate Relief includes a cap on Medicaid increase and the goal for the state to take over Medicaid costs over the next few years. The proposed pension reform will not result in immediate savings, but the governor insists that the savings over time will be worth the changes now. Gov. Cuomo proposes a 6th tier which will be a voluntary option available to employees in addition to the traditional state options.
And lastly, the governor addresses his priority mission: education. He emphasized the need to shift the focus from the industry to student performance including good grades and test results. The federal government awarded $700 million to the New York school system with the belief that an evaluation system would be put into place. Gov. Cuomo noted that the failure to create an evaluation system means that the federal government wants their $700 million back. Take that out of the proposed $805 million in school spending for this year and it leaves only $105 million which will hurt all of the school districts and be particularly devastating to those in poorer areas that desperately need funds.
Gov. Cuomo noted that the fact that New York has one of the highest per pupil costs in the nation as well as the one of the highest property tax rates, New York should expect the best from its school systems. Without a real evaluation plan in place created by the teacher's unions and the State Education Department within 30 days, the government will take over and institute an evaluation plan. If teacher evaluations have been completed by September 1, 2012, those school districts will be eligible for bonus points towards competitive performance funding. If the teacher evaluations are not implemented by January 17, 2013, there will be no state increase in school funding.
This aggressive reform plan proposes dramatic change, but as Gov. Cuomo notes, those big changes will put New Yorkers in a better place in the future. Stay tuned to New York NOW for continued coverage on the Budget Address and proposed reform in 2012.