Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Budget Rent-a-Scam

Governor Cuomo, continuing with his vow to engage the public on the need to reform the state's fiscal mess, has published an Op-ed piece on one aspect of the budgetary process that most folks were probably unaware of: " A series of so-called "permanent laws" and little-known regulations buried in New York's often secretive budget process have for decades dramatically padded funding for special interests and helped push the state into multibillion dollar deficits, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday. Cuomo, who discovered practices that he says mirror deceptions on Wall Street, said he will stop the "sham" that can keep a governor from truly curbing or cutting spending. He said the practice this year would automatically increase Medicaid and education spending by 13 percent, so that even a 7-percent cut announced publicly would still be a 6-percent increase in funding."

Good morning sunshine, the Earth says hello! And this exposes the lachrymose screaming of those who deem paper cuts to be more like hemorrhages: "Cuomo's revelation is startling for Albany's long criticized and often secretive budget process. Advocacy groups have long decried the notion that a reduction in the traditional increase of 5 percent in funding can be deemed "a cut." But Cuomo says the automatic increases in "hundreds of rates and formulas marbleized" in law are much larger."

Get us our shawl, we feel the winds of change blowing-but not without the usual blow back; as City Room reports: "James A. Parrott, chief economist of the Fiscal Policy Institute, a labor-backed research and advocacy organization, said, “It is a little surprising that such an Albany veteran was surprised by the longstanding New York practice of current services budgeting as required by current law. The governor should try to find people who can read the reports of the Division of the Budget,” he added. “This is the sort of bewilderment one would have expected from his November opponent.”

Ah, a bit of gamesmanship, no doubt-with Parrot parroting the party line and punking the governor at the same time. We believe that he is probably aware that Cuomo had more than an inkling of this practice way before yesterday-and is using the, "surprise," to galvanize the tax payers. Well, consider us galvanized-even if unsurprised by the revelation.

City Room explains: "Many legislative staff members, advocates and budget experts in Albany, speaking publicly and privately, accused the governor of either lacking a basic understanding of how states across the country put budgets together, or, more likely, deliberately muddying the water ahead of the formal presentation of his first budget on Tuesday...Part of the political calculation is clear. Mr. Cuomo wants the public to know that much of what he is likely to cut are actually planned spending increases aimed at maintaining current services as defined by law, not cuts to existing spending levels."

Perhaps so, but maybe not-and it is also possible that Cuomo seeks to do more and is preparing the public wisely-echoing the Rod Stewart observation that, "The first cut is the deepest."  As YNN reports, this could mean we are looking at a transvaluation of the "normal" budget process: "Here’s Steve Cohen, a top Cuomo administration aide, expanding on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s OpEd earlier today that signaled his intent to, as Cohen put it, “take this thing from its roots and yank it out and fix the system.” Cohen said the built-in annual spending increases have come to be accepted as “normal” at the Capitol, and that’s an assumption that the Cuomo administration wants to change.
What we’re saying is, that doesn’t have to be normal,” Cohen explained. “Now, that’s just the way it works? That’s not how it has to work.”
And that friends, is the last word-at least for now.