Last week New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver announced the early passage of the state’s fiscal year 2013 budget. The Legislature approved the $132.6 billion budget on Friday March 30. According to an article by Thomas Kaplan in The New York Times:
The voting on Friday marked the first time the Legislature had approved a state spending plan with more than 24 hours to spare since 1983 — when Mr. Cuomo’s father, former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, passed his first budget.
Four major stories jump out of this budget deal.
- Fiscal Responsibility: Lawmakers closed a multi-billion dollar deficit ($2 billion, or 3.5% of the state budget, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities) without raising taxes or imposing fees. State spending growth held to 2% for the second year in a row, while net spending (state and local) was reduced for the second year in a row thanks in part to tax caps on local governments. State spending will total roughly $88.8 billion in FY 2013. Most impressively, out year deficits have been reduced by a cumulative $72 billion since Gov. Cuomo took office.
- Government Reform: Lawmakers are empowering the Office of General Services (OGS) to serve as a clearinghouse for state agencies, thereby transforming procurement by facilitating bulk purchase common goods and services through centralized contracts. Officials will leverage the state’s purchasing power to save $100 million in FY 2013 and a projected $755 million over five years. They’re also eliminating 25 state boards and commissions that are no longer active or whose missions have been completed or become redundant, such as the Department of State’s Barbers Board. (See the full list of eliminated boards and commissions available online here, for more on the new OGS initiatives see here).
- Transportation Infrastructure: Lawmakers are enhancing their focus on transportation infrastructure. The budget establishes the New York Works Task Force to coordinate capital plans across state government and funds the New York Works program with $232 million in state capital funds and $917 in federal funds for $1.2 billion in new spending. This is in addition to $1.6 billion already allocated this year to core transportation capital investment. And most importantly, these funds are in addition to the advancement of the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project. (For more on the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project, see my colleague Baruch Feigenbaum’s latest Out of Control Policy Blog post here.)
- Criminal Justice: The Budget serves as the launching point for Gov. Cuomo’s Close to Home Initiative, which seeks to reform the state’s juvenile justice facility system. Specifically it allows New York City officials to take responsibility for the case of lower risk youth who come from the City. This applies to youth in non-secure and limited security facilities. The aim of the program is to reduce crime and improve outcomes for youth and the communities in which they live by providing targeted educational, mental health, substance abuse and other service needs without compromising public safety. The program is expected to save $4.5 million in FY 2013 and $27 million in FY 2014, in part by reducing the state’s juvenile justice system capacity by 140 beds in FY 2013 and 180 beds in FY 2014. (For more on the Close to Home Initiative see a write-up by the New York State Juvenile Justice Advisory Group here.)
Overall there are some major accomplishments in this budget. Kudos to state policymakers for finding common ground and balancing innovation with fiscal responsibility along the way. Once considered in the dysfucntional company of states like California and Illinois, New York appears to be taking serious strides in the right direction.