Albany Budget Turmoil
There is no question that Albany has not generated confidence in its budget efforts this year. The budget in Albany must be completed by April 1 under New York State Law. But, we are well into May this year, and there is no sign of a state budget.
That unsettling performance has added to an already dire budgetary picture at the local level. With the state facing a huge budget deficit in 2011, and with no clarity on what the 2011 state budget will be, municipalities across New York State are bracing for significant reductions on state funding.
Amongst the problems facing Albany is reduced federal funding. The federal stimulus dollars that President Obama fought to bring to state governments across our country immediately after his inauguration are now running out. In 2011, New York State (like so many states) will have exhausted nearly all of the support provided by the stimulus package passed by Congress in 2009, thereby creating increasing pressure on state budgets that are already strained beyond the breaking point. In 2012, essentially all of the stimulus money will be gone.
Until now, stimulus money spared governors and state lawmakers from making some of the most brutal budget cuts. But with this lifeline running out, officials are looking at making significant cutbacks to public services, particularly schools and health programs. "The stimulus funds have staved off what could have been even deeper cuts," said Todd Haggerty, policy associate at the National Conference of State Legislatures. "You're seeing states now are coming to that point where they will have to make additional cuts or find new sources of revenue for fiscal 2011 and that will continue in fiscal 2012."
Phony Blame for Albany
Despite the national impact of the end of the stimulus money, the Mayor has insisted on blaming Albany for the cuts that NYC will have to make to its own spending. In reality, NYC has choices it must make in the face of reduced revenues, and the Mayor has decided that primary and secondary education should be singled out to suffer in these lean times. Ironically, the Mayor focused his campaign for re-election to a third term, in part, on the assertion that he had been and would be successful in improving the NYC public schools.
Having overturned the New York City Charter in order to allow himself to run for a third term, and having been re-elected by a slim margin despite outspending his opponent by an order of magnitude, the Mayor is now using the prospect of undermining the public education system to shift blame away from himself and to Albany for the budget cuts he chooses to implement. If indeed Albany had the final say in how NYC's budget was designed, changing the New York City Charter in order for the Mayor to seek a third term would seem silly, or worse. But, we went through the trouble of accommodating the Mayor's need to be the Mayor, and, now that he has four more year to rule over his subjects, he should not be permitted to suggest that his budget priorities are set by politicians in Albany.
The budget cuts proposed by the Mayor are the Mayor's choices and reflect his priorities. He has decided that he will not cut any police jobs and that he will concentrate nearly all his cuts in the educational system.
We hope to see the Mayor adopt a more responsible set of budget priorities and a more responsible approach to communicating with the public about the budget choices he is making.