Cuomo's proposed budget caps spending at 2%. But a watchdog group said the increase is twice as high, thanks to fiscal gimmicks.
ALBANY — While Gov. Cuomo has touted that his budget plan would cap state spending at 2% for an eighth straight year, a fiscal watchdog group says it’s actually going up twice that rate.

The non-partisan Citizens Budget Commission (CBC) said Cuomo for the second straight year used fiscal gimmicks to give the appearance that the state’s growth in state taxpayer supported spending will be lower than it is.

The CBC says $2.8 billion in costs shifts, reclassification of spending, and delaying of payments all account for Cuomo’s claim of keeping the state spending hike at 1.9% in 2018-19.

But when adjusting for the cost shifts, the budget would actually increase state taxpayer supported spending by 4.1%, the CBC says.

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“Governor Cuomo’s commitment to maintain fiscal discipline is commendable, but using accounting maneuvers to adhere to a 2% cap misleads about the true growth rate and misrepresents which areas of the state budget are growing,” said Dave Friedfel, CBC’s director of state studies.

The commission’s analysis, which is set to be released Tuesday, found the biggest cost shift is a change in how a $1.5 billion MTA mobility tax is accounted for.

The tax would remain the same. But instead of first going to the state, which then disperses it to the MTA, Cuomo would have it go directly to the transportation authority, meaning it would no longer be on the state ledger.

The analysis also outlines another $1.3 billion in fiscal maneuvers, including the prepayment from the current budget of $340 million in debt payments due in the next fiscal year.

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“As the legislators consider the FY2019 Executive Budget they should be mindful that spending growth is twice as much as advertised,” the analysis says.

Cuomo budget spokesman Morris Peters countered that “it is an unequivocal fact that Governor Cuomo has constrained State spending growth more effectively than any previous administration.”

“While self-proclaimed good government groups contrive adjustments to get to a higher number, we’ll stick with a fully transparent financial plan showing spending growth at historically low levels for an eighth consecutive year,” Peters said.

A Cuomo administration aide accused the CBC of being “selective in what it chooses to count.”

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He said prepayments occur every year. Excluding the prepayments alone would drop the CBC’s calculated growth to 3.4%, he said.

He also said the proposed change on the mobility tax would actually increase what the MTA receives by $60 million.

Source: nydailynews


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