With Us Or Against Us (Updated)

Executive agency and department heads were not briefed on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2011-2012 budget until mid-morning today, but there was no ambiguity about the message delivered during their get-together, according to a source who was in the room.

“The message was given loud and clear that you need to go home tonight, look youself in the mirror, and if you can’t support the governor’s budget 100 percent, let us know and we will replace you,” the source recalled.

After spending exactly one month in office, Cuomo has made a number of agency appointments, but he has not yet replaced all the holdovers from the previous administration(s) in the upper echelons of state government. (Some are still hanging on from the Spitzer days, and a select few – albeit not in the commissioner posts – are still around from Pataki’s tenure, I believe).

Interestingly, I’m told Budget Director Bob Megna, who is himself a holdover, delivered the briefing this morning. UPDATE: Correction! It was Director of State Operations Howard Glaser, not Megna, who delivered the “with us or against us” message, a reader says.

The governor has proposed consolidating a number of agencies, which will entail doing away with a number of management confidential positions as well as possibly laying off 9,800 civil service workers – unless, the governor says, the unions agree to concessions that result in significant savings.

The talking points that appear below have been distributed to members of the administration. Key point: This budget is not merely a “cutting exercise” but rather “a management exercise in redesigning and reinventing our state government.”

budget talking 2011-2012

Correctional Officers: Prison Shutdowns Put Public At Risk

Not surprisingly, the 23,000-member state Correctional Officers Union is not responding well to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to “right-size” New York prison system, targeting some 3,500 minimum and medium security beds for elimination.

Cuomo plans to issue an executive order creating a task force charged with recommending specific prisons to close.

If the task force doesn’t make any recommendations, or if its recommendations are rejected by the Legislature – not an unlikely scenario now that the GOP is back in control of the Senate – the Correctional Services commissioner would be empowered to close facilities on his own.

Here’s the statement from NYSCOPBA President Don Rowe:

“This year’s budget process presents New Yorkers with a long-overdue opportunity to ‘right size’ our prison system by reducing costly and redundant levels of management.”

“However, using a scalpel to cut the bloated bureaucracy at the Department of Corrections in Albany, while taking an ax to close the prisons that keep us safe is simply the wrong approach.”

“With our maximum-security prisons at 122 percent capacity and our overall prison population at 100%, protecting the safety of inmates, corrections officers and the public at large means that tax dollars must be spent efficiently, and any reforms must address the extremely dangerous overcrowding and “double bunking” conditions at our medium- and maximum-security prisons.”

“On the heels of the five prison closures over the last three years and loss ofroughly 2,500 beds, the closure of any additional facilities poses a clear and present danger to the public and worsens what is already an extremely serious overcrowding situation with many of our most dangerous and violent inmates.”

“Put simply, there is no way to shut down more prisons without putting correction officers, inmates and the public at risk.”

Making Money Off Taxes

…It’s not what you think.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo kept his “no new taxes pledge” in his 2011-2012 executive budget proposal, but did inlcude some $455 million worth of so-called “revenue actions.” The biggest – an estimated $200 million – will be achieved, according to the governor, through tax modernization initiatives.

OK, so what does that mean? Here’s the description (found on P. 73 of the budget briefing book):

“This proposal would mandate electronic filing by all sales tax vendors and increase personal income tax e-filing. Electronic filing improves data matching with existing IRS and other data sources, resulting in increased State revenue through denied refunds and more accurate final returns.”

“In addition, the Tax Commissioner would be given discretion to require automated point of sale accounting systems and more frequent filing from sales tax filers who have a poor filing record.”

“Finally, the Department of Taxation and Finance will embark on an auditing program to more efficiently engage taxpayers by adopting techniques based on those used in the IRS Limited Issue Focused Examination (LIFE) program.”

Front Row Seat For Budget Address

…or you can join me on YNN. I’ll be live before and after the 1 p.m. address.

MTA Pledges To Do More With Less

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is the first out with a response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal, and is promising to try to cut costs without another fare hike.

Remember: An added wrinkle for the MTA could be the loss of the so-called .34 percent payroll tax in the 12-county MTA service region that was part of the 2009 bailout plan.

The tax was imposed on all employers – including school districts – and was incredibly unpopular in the suburban counties outside the five boroughs – so much so that it sparked a lawsuit filed by Nassau County and subsequently joined by several others.

Cuomo recently signaled a willingness to rescind the payroll tax (a big goal of the Senate GOP), calling it “onerous,” and saying he’s open to finding a “better way” to provide a recurring revenue stream for the MTA.

Here’s the authority’s statement on Cuomo’s budget:

“We understand that the State’s fiscal crisis requires sacrifice from every area funded by the State, including the MTA.”

“Because the MTA has already taken unprecedented measures to reduce costs, finding an additional $100 million in 2011 will be very painful, especially with sizable deficits still projected for 2012 and 2014. As we continue cost-cutting, further reductions become harder and harder to achieve.”

“But we must fill this gap, and we will fill it without resorting to fare and toll increases or service cuts, because our riders have already been hit with these painful measures over the past year.”

“Instead, we will work to find additional cost-savings through efficiencies and improved productivity throughout our company. We are hopeful that this year we can work with our labor unions to find productivity improvements that protect jobs even as we reduce costs.”

“Making these cuts will be painful, but we can only spend as much money as we have. Given the financial pressures facing the State, local governments, and every New Yorker, our only choice is to manage the MTA so that every dollar counts.”

State Cuts

The $1.4 billion worth of cuts to state operations that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing breaks down thusly:

- Rightsizing Initiatives $100 million

- SUNY Efficiencies $115 million

- CUNY Efficiencies $70 million

- SUNY Hospitals $180 million

- Non-personal services $485 million

- Labor Management Partnership $450 million

In short, Cuomo is proposing a 10 percent year-to-year General Fund reduction for all state agency operations, and a 5.4 percent overall reduction in State Operating Funds.

According to the budget briefing book, the governor will “seek a partnership with state employee unions to reduce workforce costs.”

In addition to the reductions that will occur with consolidations and mergers, the governor will endeavor to settlee on a “fair and affordable compensation package” with the unions in the upcoming contract talks. (Contracts for CSEA and PEF run out at the end of March).

The prison closure task force is charged with targeting specific facilities to close. The administration estimates some 3,500 excess beds in medium and minimum security prisons.

If the task force fails to make recommendations, or if its recommendations are rejected by the Legislature, the governor wants the Correctional Services commissioner (whom he hasn’t yet replaced) to be able to unilaterally close facilities.

Communities impacted by prison closures would be eligible to receive assistance from the regional economic development councils via a $100 million fund to, as the budget briefing book puts it, help them “end their reliance on incarceration as a major source of employment and economic sustainability.”

It’s Here. Cuomo’s Budget By The Numbers

A summary of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s first executive budget has been released to the media and as expected, it includes deep cuts. The overall number is $132.9 billion.

General fund spending is reduced by $8.9 billion, including Medicaid and education aid cuts of $2.85 billion each. State agency operations are cut $1.4 billion. There’s $340 million worth of new revenue and $805 million worth of one-shots.

Point of reference: Last year, the executive budget proposal was $134 billion (all funds), or $3.7 billion less than this year for a 2.3 percent decrease. The enacted budget last year was $133.8 billion.

Remember that there was a shortfall that former Gov. David Paterson asked the Legislature to deal with and it did not, leaving this year’s budget more than $315 million out of balance. Paterson’s proposed cuts included $55 million in reductions to Medicaid and $260 million in across-the-board cuts in state aid to local governments.

Like last year, NYC will receive zero local government aid from the state. Unlike other local governments the governor’s office says NYC has a range of local revenue sources.

Some highlights:

- Just two new fees were proposed in Cuomo’s budget bringing in $19.5 million: The fee for Statewide Central Registrar checks will go from $5 to $60 and there will be a surcharge on horse racing purses.

- The budget closes a loophole that exempts cooperative insurance companies from paying certain taxes. This is estimated to bring in $22 million.

- Extends the low income housing tax credit program.

- State worker layoffs not expected to exceed 9,800 with addition of attrition to achieve $ 550 million in savings.

- Creation of a task force to target prisons for closure.

Some proposed agency mergers:

- Correctional service and Parole into new department of corrections and community supervision.

- Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, office of Victim Services and state Commission of Correction into DCJS.

- Banking and Insurance departments and a portion of the Consumer Protection Board into new department of financial regulation (estimated $200 million savings over two years).

- Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation and Empire State Development Corp. merged into one uber-ESDC.

Budget proposes to cap annual increase in the STAR exemption benefits to two percent per year.


Like Father, Unlike Daughter

ICYMI. Here’s the video of Barbara Bush, daughter of former Republican President George W. Bush, announcing her support for legalizing same-sex marriage as part of an effort run by the Human Rights Campaign.

The HRC, which has recorded numerous videos of prominent New Yorkers proclaiming their backing of gay marriage, plans to air the Barbara Bush video at its annual gala Saturday night. A spokesman for the ex-president had no comment.

The video is pretty basic. It features the younger Bush saying:

“I’m Barbara Bush and I’m a New Yorker for marriage equality. New York is about fairness and equality and everyone should have the right to marry the person that they love. Join us.”

The video comes on the heels of two polls showing a majority of New Yorkers support marriage equality. A Siena poll earlier this month found 57 percent of New Yorkers support marriage for same-sex couples. Last week’s Q poll pegged support at 56 percent.

Barbara Bush joins prominent Republicans like her mother, former First Lady Laura Bush, as well as former VP Dick Cheney and Ted Olson (a conservative attorney who represented the ex-president in Bush v. Gore in 2000) as supporters of marriage equality.

““Americans from all walks of life are increasingly supportive of the basic right to equal marriage,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “Barbara Bush’s advocacy shows that equality knows no party label.”

Here And Now

SNOWMAGEDDON! (Again. Sigh). It’s good for some people, though.

The day of budget reckoning has arrived.

According to those briefed on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan, it will include cutting 3,000 prison beds, a reduction in scheduled Medicaid increases, and more deep slashing of state operations, which will lead to the loss of thousands of state jobs.

The jobs on the line pay more, on average, than private sector posts.

Insiders predict Medicaid will be reduced (over and above scheduled 13 percent increases) by about $2.9 billion. Ditto for education. About $1.5 billion will come out of state ops. There will be some – but not a lot – of one shots.

The budget is expected to be cut to $132.9 billion, a 2.7 percent reduction, a source told the DN – in part because of a loss in federal stimulus aid.

Cuomo’s plan will include the first year-to-year drop in spending for the overall state budget since the mid-1990s, and almost nothing will be spared.

Cuomo insisted the $10 billion budget deficit would be a lot smaller if not for the “sham” process of built-in annual increases.

Cuomo’s claims, laid out in an OpEd running in newspapers statewide, drew criticism that he doesn’t understand the budget process, but EJ McMahon thinks the governor is “smart to pre-frame the budget package this way.”

The governor also drew praise from The Post and the DN’s Bill Hammond.

Albany’s “budgetary culture” is under attack like never before, writes Bob Ward.

More >

Cuomo: Beware Of Mother Nature!

Gov. Cuomo is covering his bases ahead of the monster snow storm expected to hit the state over the next couple days.

He’s ordered the NYS Office of Emergency Management (OEM) to activate the state’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan and to open the State Emergency Operations Center.

“In response to the anticipated storm – including snow, ice and sleet – we have taken the steps necessary to coordinate and mobilize the resources needed to provide a timely response,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement.

“I urge all New Yorkers to take precautions to prepare themselves and their families as this storm approaches.”

The governor has put many of the state’s agencies on high alert ahead of the storm.  DOT is already pre-treating road surfaces and has more than 1,400 snow plows ready to be called into action.

The full list of precautions and safety tips from the governor’s office appears after the jump.

More >