Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Cuomo's No Pain, No Gain Budget

Well, the austerity budget is in, and Governor Cuomo is most definitely walking the walk-especially when you listen to the moaning and groaning of the usual suspects. The NY Times has the story: "Declaring New York State “functionally bankrupt,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed a $132.9 billion budget on Tuesday that would reduce year-to-year spending for the first time in more than a decade, sharply cut back projected spending on education and health care, and cut the budget for state agencies by more than half a billion dollars in the next fiscal year."

To which NY State's small businesses say, hallelujah! It's about time, and we agree wholeheartedly with the Business Council's heather Brichetti who told Daily Politics: "Gov. Cuomo is proposing a budget that finally addresses the need to reduce government spending and put New York on the road to recovery. This budget proposal ends the business as usual in Albany that has led to a loss of jobs and population in our state...We realize difficult decisions will be made in this budget. But, if we can put the state's fiscal house in order we can create an environment that will lead to economic development and create jobs for all New Yorkers."

What Cuomo has done is to state clearly that the problem in New York is government itself-with its bloated edifice and grasping bureaucracy. And Cuomo emphasized this point by exposing how secrecy in the budgetary process has aided and abetted those special interests that have made state government unaffordable.

As the Times points out: "Presenting his budget to lawmakers and other officials at a state theater in Albany, Mr. Cuomo sounded stern, even angry, about the way past governors and lawmakers have built inexorable spending growth into future budgets, even as he urged the Legislature to join him in reigning in government expenditures. He decried current budgeting practices as a “special interest protection program” that led to too much spending with too little accountability for performance, and called for a return to what he described as “reality-based” budgeting."

That's actually pretty funny, although we thought that Albany could have easily been a reality show venue in the past-but Governor Cuomo's assault on bureaucracy was especially heartening to us: "It’s not about the industry of government,” Mr. Cuomo said. “It’s not about the bureaucracy of programs. Government is there to serve people.”  Too often, however, it is simply self-serving.

In relation to this sentiment, Cuomo went after the growing tentacles of an ever expanding state government: "Mr. Cuomo is seeking to reduce the budget for state operations, among the larger pots of spending, by 10 percent, one of the steepest proportional reductions to any area of the budget. About $100 million in savings would be sought through agency mergers, but the bulk of the amount, $450 million, is intended to come through what Mr. Cuomo’s budget proposal terms a “Labor Management Partnership...” Mr. Cuomo’s budget also offers a more expansive glimpse of his plans to redesign New York’s sprawling state bureaucracy, with plans to merge 11 existing agencies or authorities into just four entities. Mr. Cuomo will seek to consolidate the department of corrections, one of New York’s largest agencies, with the state division of parole, and to move several agencies that handle programs for domestic violence and crime victims into the state division of criminal justice services."

This, friends, is a real re-inventing government agenda-and one that NYC could have and should have embarked on during the past nine years-but didn't, and the consequent pain ahead is going to be worse because of having failed to seize the opportunity that Cuomo has done in this breathtaking departure from budgetary/government business as usual.

Oh, and he's proposing to do all this while abjuring any new tax increases-ignoring the pleas of the NY Times to continue the so-called millionaire's tax, and hold off on the property tax cap that the paper calls, "a blunt instrument," and a, "bad bill." What the Times tries to paper over is the fact that, as the highest taxed state in the country, NY has lost its competitive advantage and has witnessed a, "voting with their feet," out migration that has cost us more than $38 billion in personal income to more hospitable venues.

But now the real battle for the soul of New York begins-and we strongly believe that the state's small businesses will be right there to man the barricades. There's no doubt that this is a tough budget-but it sets the stage for a real NY recovery that will enable more of our citizens to afford to live, work, and start a small business here. Short term pain is both necessary as well as unavoidable. But, as the sports cliche tells us: No pain, no gain.