Democrat & Chronicle
April 1, 2014
In shepherding the state’s fourth straight on-time spending plan through the Legislature this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo deserves credit not only for enforcing fiscal discipline, but political discipline. The state’s budget process no longer drags months past the April 1 deadline, as it often did in the days of Govs. Paterson, Spitzer and Pataki.
Timely passage, combined with much-needed economic infusions for western New York, make the new $138 billion spending package a worthy achievement, albeit one that disappoints those clamoring for stronger ethics and campaign-finance provisions. Because the on-time budget, which Cuomo will no doubt trumpet during his reelection bid, comes at the cost of a high-profile anti-corruption panel unveiled with huge fanfare last year, it smacks of Albany horse trading.
The budget bills, which were being voted on late Monday, likely put a smile on the face of Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, who is struggling to close a $28 million spending gap. Not only was an additional $6 million in state aid included for the Flower City, but Warren’s contention that municipalities should get credit for past consolidation or other government efficiencies appears to have resonated. Such credit will be instituted — an important step, given that future state-promised property tax credits will be contingent, in part, on municipal belt-tightening.
Also welcome regionally was an additional $33 million toward developing a monster technology and manufacturing park in Genesee County — one that could be a job-creation powerhouse. And city and suburban schools will see higher-than-average state aid in a budget that increases education spending some 5 percent across the board.
All to the good — as opposed to tepid action on campaign finance reform and government ethics.
Cuomo’s much-professed intention to clean up Albany has been perhaps his most notable first-term failure, and the new budget does nothing to change that. The governor’s proposed public-financing measure was watered down into a trial measure in this year’s state comptroller’s race. That’s too little and, given the election calendar, too late. Even more disappointing: Cuomo negotiated away the corruption-fighting Moreland Commission, whose scathing report last year on lawmaker indictments turned up the heat for much-needed ethics measures.
Credit Cuomo for changing the mentality around the budget process. But he shouldn’t have had to cave on promises to more stringently police political campaigns and Albany politicians.