Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cuomo vs. Bloomberg, budget collision course?

by Carlos González

Robert Megna

NEW YORK CITY - Yesterday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg
criticized the proposed budget of Governor Andrew Cuomo, indicating that he sees it as being totally unfair to New York City.

Immediately after, State Budget Director Bob Megna, a Paterson administration holdover, responded with a scorching statement rejecting the mayor's claim that the city stands to lose $2 billion if Cuomo's spending plan is enacted as-is by the Legislature.

Statement by Megna:

“Governor Cuomo’s budget does not cut $1.4 billion in education aid to New York City,” Megna declared. “Rather, on a year to year basis, education aid to New York City is cut $579 million.”

“I want to be very clear on this because there can be no dispute about it – New York City will get $579 million less in education aid than it did in last year’s budget. It is also worth noting that Mayor Bloomberg has at least $2 billion in reserves which could be used to offset the loss of this education funding.”

“The fact that the Mayor has these reserves is a credit to his Administration for smart fiscal planning.”

Battles between Bloomberg and Megna are not new, but Megna did accuse Hizzoner of using fuzzy math when speaking against cuts and revenue-sharing aid.

“In terms of revenue sharing aid, New York City received no such aid last year and this year also does not receive any aid. Mayor Bloomberg has chosen to characterize this as a $300 million cut, but in fact on a year to year basis, the city has remained exactly the same.”

“An analogy is helpful to understand this point: If I was paid $50,000 last year and I get paid $50,000 this year, my salary remains flat. And I would not characterize it as a cut of $10,000 even if I had hoped I would be making $60,000 this year.”

We're not sure if New York City has $2 billion in reserves, but if so, it's a credit to a disciplined fiscal approach by the mayor and city council. However, for Megna to suggest that Hizzoner offset the loss of educational aid by raiding city reserves in not only incredulous, but it asks the mayor and city to participate in the same type of dysfunction and overspending that led to Albany's trouble in the first place.

Cuomo's budget proposal seeks to reduce overall state spending by $3.7 billion. He promised a fair and equitable budget. It should be noted that this is the first decline in 15 years, but the suffering will mostly happen in New York City.

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