Governor Andrew Cuomo released his proposed state budget for the upcoming fiscal year on Jan. 17 after completing a State of the State tour with six addresses in various cities, concluding in Albany. In the process of detailing his $152.3 billion plan, Cuomo described New York as “doing better than it has in many, many decades.”
“The economic and social progress is up all across the board,” Cuomo said in Albany on Jan. 11. “You would have to go back to the history books and find a time since FDR and Robert Moses where the government actually produced more, or achieved more, or passed more meaningful legislation or built more things for people than this government has done.”
Cuomo’s budget contains, among other things, $2 billion for investment in clean-water infrastructure, a new version of the currently suspended 421a property tax and $10 billion to overhaul Kennedy International Airport. The governor also proposed to make tuition at state colleges free for families with less than $125,000 in annual income. “[College] shouldn’t just be for the people who can afford it,” Cuomo said in Albany. “Average debt now for a child coming out of college is $30,000.” A $1 billion increase in state-wide education funding is also included.
Doug Turetsky, chief of staff at the Independent Budget Office of the City of New York, said the additional $1 billion for education would mean about $295 million more for the city, to be allocated by the New York City Department of Education. “I think one of the main takeaways at this point in terms of the governor’s education budget proposal is he’s gutting the Campaign for Fiscal Equity agreement, the 10-year lawsuit that said the state was not providing enough funding for sound, balanced education,” Turetsky said. “A lot of legislators from the city and outside the city have been urging the state to get back to that agreement.” The Campaign for Fiscal Equity, a group of parents and education advocates, won its lawsuit in 2006 to provide better, more extensive education to New York City students, but the city has yet to receive the fully mandated funding from the state.
Council Member Corey Johnson, who represents Manhattan’s West Side between West 62nd and Canal Streets, called the free tuition proposal “exactly the kind of bold policy making that New York families need.” “I’m also thrilled about some of the infrastructure investments, including in my District at Moynihan Station,” Johnson said. He praised Cuomo’s focus on updating the city’s transportation infrastructure, and expressed confidence that the governor would follow through.
The governor proposed $50 million in cuts to Medicaid for pre-kindergarten and school health services, however, which troubled Lower Manhattan Council Member Margaret Chin. “I pledge to work with my state and local colleagues to increase Medicaid funding while maximizing cost savings to ensure that New York remains on solid fiscal footing,” Chin said.
According to Turetsky, Medicaid will be cut unless New York City can leverage $100 million more for the program from the federal government. Given the uncertainty surrounding the new administration of President Donald Trump, Turetsky called this “a somewhat cynical bargain.” “You have a new president, along with a Congress that seems intent on cutting Medicaid,” he said. “The likelihood of the city getting $100 million would appear to be pretty slight.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio was expected to present his budget for the city on Jan. 24.
Madeleine Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org