`Tough Decisions' Ahead For New York's State Budget

Oct 13, 2017

ALBANY (WSKG) - The state’s Comptroller is siding with Governor Cuomo over concerns that federal health care cuts will damage New York’s budget, but he says the governor’s budget experts should have saved more money in rainy day funds. 

Credit Ryan Delaney / Innovation Trail

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says Cuomo is right to draw attention to over a billion dollars in potential health care cuts to the state, now that Congress and President Trump have postponed acting on a new federal budget.

Congress failed to renew funding for the Disproportionate Share Hospital fund, which will impact public hospitals that serve the uninsured. It also did not renew the Child Health Plus program, which provides health care for around 330,000 children in the state.

“I think the governor is right to sound the alarm,” said DiNapoli. “We have a tremendous amount of risk to our budget and our financial standing if action is not taken at the federal level.” 

Both Cuomo and DiNapoli say the state is also facing a $4 billion dollar budget gap next year.  The Comptroller predicts that the state will “have to make some tough budget decisions”.

The governor said he may call for a special session of the legislature to deal with the funding loss.

Cuomo recently added another reason for the legislature to return. He’s asked lawmakers to add $35 million more dollars in a potential special session to help victims of flooding earlier this year along Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River.

The Comptroller says some of the potential budget gap  could have been avoided, though,  if Cuomo’s budget department had been “more aggressive” in putting more money in reserve funds, though, to provide for unforeseen future events. And he says the state still faces billions of dollars in excess debt, which has not yet been paid off.

“It tends not to be as interesting a press announcement if you’re putting more money in the reserve versus spending money on a program that people might desire or is very popular,” DiNapoli said. “We do need to be positioned to the reality that there are cycles and we will be subject to those cycles.”  

A spokesman for Cuomo’s Division of the Budget, Morris Peters, disputes DiNapoli’s charges. He says, in a statement, that the state ran a surplus for each of the past four years and made an effort to put some of that money aside. 

“General Fund reserves are now at $2.5 billion, up from $1 billion ten years ago, including $500 million for debt management,” Peters said.

DiNapoli says there’s still a chance that Democrats in Congress, including US Senator and Democratic Leader Senator Chuck Schumer, may restore the federal health care money before the end of the year, filing the potential new hole in the state budget. But he says if it’s not resolved within the next few weeks, then it “might be appropriate to hold a session”.