Cuomo budget earns mixed reviews

Feb 5, 2016

A left leaning thank tank is out with its assessment of Governor Cuomo’s budget. They say there’s a lot to like and dislike about it.

Credit WBFO News File Photo

Ron Deutsch is with Fiscal Policy Institute, a progressive leaning think tank in part funded by the unions. He says Governor Cuomo deserves credit for pushing a phase in for a $15 minimum wage for all low income earners in the state.

“It would be the first in the nation,” said Deutsch. “We think now is the time to get that done.”

He says he also likes the  governor’s revised Paid Family Leave proposal, which would phase in a rate of two thirds of a worker’s pay  for up to 12 weeks of time off to care for a newborn or sick family member. And Deutsch says the governor seems more enthusiastic than ever about addressing homelessness and poverty.

But, he says his group is against the governor’s aim to continue to hold the line on state spending to no more than two percent growth per year.

“The very people he’s looking to help, the homeless and the poor are necessarily hurt by the governor’s self imposed two percent state spending cap,” Deutsch said.

Fiscal Policy Institute says the recession is over,  the state is running a surplus, tax collections are running above projections, and average incomes are going up . He says the lack of investment is becoming a drag on the state’s economy.

And Deutsch says the $2.3 billion windfall surplus from bank settlements could be redirected for other purposes. $340 million of the surplus is designated to reduce Thruway tolls. He says some of that money would be better used for the governor’s anti upstate poverty initiative which currently is budgeted at $25 million.

“You are not even going to put a dent in the astronomical child poverty rates with $25 million,” he said.

The progressive leaning think tank is in agreement with more conservative budget analysts on the topic of Thruway Tolls. E.J. McMahon, with the fiscally conservative Empire Center, also says cutting tolls is not a good use of the surplus money.

“This is in several respects the complete opposite of the policy he should be following,” McMahon said

McMahon says the governor has not yet fully figured out how to pay for the new Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson, which up until now has been financed by tolls.

Fiscal Policy Institute also agrees with the Empire Center on another issue. Both say there needs to be greater accountability on how well the annual $8 billion  in economic development investment is doing in creating actual jobs. Deutsch says he’d like to see the state’s Empire State Development Corporation provide a more detailed data base, so everyone can see “what were the jobs promised versus the jobs created."

“Only that way will we ever know if we are getting a good bang for our buck,” Deutsch said. "And what we are paying, per job, to be created.”

Cuomo’s ideas need to be approved by the legislature. Senate Republicans have not yet signed on to the minimum wage increase, while Assembly Democrats are seeking a more progressive taxation structure that puts millionaires in a higher tax bracket.