Photo Courtesy of Darrin McGee/Office of Gov. Cuomo
Cuomo also addressed the $6 billion budget gap during Tuesday’s outline of the State’s FY 2021 spending plan.
By Michael V. Cusenza
Two weeks after delivering his 10th State of the State address, Gov. Andrew Cuomo returned to Albany Tuesday and outlined the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget: a $178 billion spending plan chock-full of “bold, nation-leading, and historic actions,” according to the Empire State Executive.
“This budget is a roadmap for delivering progressive results for the people of this state and addressing the imminent challenges of our time by advancing social, racial and economic justice. We’re proposing historic investments in climate change and infrastructure programs and fixing the school aid formula to ensure poorer schools get the funding they need,” Cuomo added.
Spending plan highlights include: a $33 billion five-year plan to combat climate change, including a new plan to streamline government bureaucracy to deliver renewable energy projects faster; a $25 billion expansion of New York’s building program—including new LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International airports—bringing it to $275 billion; a $28.5 billion investment in education while reforming funding formulas to prioritize support for poor schools; and a plan to legalize cannabis in which the State will establish an Office of Cannabis Management to specialize in regulation—overseeing the medical, adult-use and hemp programs. The proposal will administer social-equity licensing opportunities, develop an egalitarian adult-use market structure and facilitate market entry through access to capital, technical assistance and incubation of equity entrepreneurs.
Cuomo on Tuesday knew that he had to acknowledge the $6.1 billion budget-gap gorilla in the room. According to the State Fiscal Outlook, the shortfall consists of two distinct parts: the baseline budget gap and the Medicaid budget gap. The baseline General Fund gap for FY 2021 is estimated at $4.1 billion and the Medicaid gap in FY 2021 is estimated at just over $2 billion. The Medicaid gap, which emerged abruptly at the end of FY 2019, is a risk to State finances if measures to control costs are not enacted, according to the budget director.
This year, Cuomo indicated that he will address the Medicaid shortfall with a new Medicaid Redesign Team. The MRT II will, the governor pledged Tuesday, reform the State’s Medicaid program, preserve benefits and find $2.5 billion in savings. The MRT II will work to find industry efficiencies or additional industry revenue with zero impact to beneficiaries and report its findings in time for the April 1 budget deadline. Additionally, Cuomo said he will empower the Medicaid Inspector General to root out waste, fraud and abuse in the Medicaid system. The State will commit to paying the entire increase in Medicaid costs for local governments as long as the local governments stay within the 2-percent property tax cap and control Medicaid costs to 3-percent growth per year. Medicaid growth for 2021 is projected to be 3 percent, allowing localities to increase without cutting State funding.
Any local government that does not stay within those limits will be required to pay the total spending growth, Cuomo cautioned.