Two weeks ago was the State of the State address (the talk), this week: the budget proposal (the walk). The budget is a big deal for the state, because it's the Cuomo administration putting its money (actually, all our money) where its mouth is.
Like last year, this year's budget presentation didn't include the dire pronouncements about gloom and doom that had been so common in previous years. As Andrew Cuomo said at Tuesday's presentation, "It's not supposed to be traumatic." He even called this year's budget proposal "simple and straightforward." (Those are always in the eye of the budget beholder -- we are talking about a plan to spend $130something billion here.)
So let's get to it...
This is just a quick overview, with a focus toward the Capital Region. There are many, many other details. And of course, this is what's proposed, not necessarily what will pass. (Though Andrew Cuomo has a talent for getting his way.)
The 2013-2014 proposed budget total is 136.5 billion -- that's up from $134 billion for 2012-2013 (increase of 1.9). The state operating funds total (the whole budget minus federal money and long term capital projects) is $90.8 billion -- up 1.6 percent. (The numbers don't include federal aid for Sandy. Figures have been rounded.)
The budget includes a handful of provisions intended to help local governments -- many of which are scraping to get by.
Stable pension contributions
The "Tier VI" for public pensions instituted last year projects to save local governments a lot of money -- in the future. (The workers in Tier VI were only recently hired, or have yet to be hired.) So the budget includes a provision that would allow local governments to lock in a pension contribution rate that would be lower than it otherwise would be now -- and hold that rate constant over many years. The theory is that would help them save money now, but down the road they would be paying a higher rate than they otherwise would be without the lock in.
The graph above, from state budget director Bob Megna's slide deck, probably depicts this better.
Example: This provision is projected to save the city of Albany $8 million in the first year, according to the Megna's presenation.
Update: This proposal is already raising a few eyebrows. Said Syracuse mayor Stephanie Miner: "Isn't this what got states like Illinois in trouble?" [NYT]
The proposed budget does not include a "spin-up" of ESP PILOT money for the city of Albany -- but Megna says it's being discussed. A similar payment ahead of schedule from the state for payments in lieu of taxes on the ESP last year was an important part of the city's budget. [@TUCapCon]
The budget holds constant the aid distributed to municipalities from video lottery terminals. In the last budget Saratoga Springs got $1.5 million, and Saratoga County just under $500k.
Allowing local governments to renew their sales tax rates without state legislature approval (increases would still need the OK), and a bunch of items filed under the ever-talked-about category "mandate relief."
The budget bills include a provision to increase in the state minimum wage, from $7.25 to $8.75 per hour. The Cuomo admin says that increase would affect 705,000 workers and collectively raise wages by $1.01 billion per year.
The size of the state workforce is "expected to be relatively stable" over the next budget year, according to the briefing book. This isn't really surprising, a lot of the drama was worked out last year when the new union contracts were negotiated (and included concessions such as no general raises last year and this next year).
Interesting bit: the size of the state workforce in "agencies directly controlled by the Executive" is down from 137,680 in 2007-2008 to 118,878 in the current year (2012) -- that's down 18 percent.
The proposed budget includes $20.8 billion in school aid, an increase of 3 percent compared to the last year ("Most of the allocated increase is provided to high-need school districts."). The Cuomo admin says education aid represents 28 percent of the state's general fund spending. The budget also includes $203 million in "Fiscal Stabilization Funds" for school districts.
+ Bar exam for teachers: pretty much what it sounds like.
Andrew Cuomo floated a handful of new education programs in his SOS address. And the budget includes details on funding:
+ Full day pre-K: $25 million, "targeted toward higher need students in lower wealth school districts via a competitive process."
+ Extended school time: $20 million, "prioritized to support high-quality extended school day or extended school year programs, with academically enriched programming."
+ High-performing teachers as mentors: $11 million, for $15k annual stipends to "the most effective teachers in the State" -- "This program will begin with math and science teachers."
The budget includes a bunch of different provisions relating to Sandy, Irene, and Lee recovery, as well as provisions to preparing infrastructure for future storms.
Among the provisions: $2 billion for "Community Reconstruction and Mitigation Plans," the zones for which cover parts of the Catskills, Schoharie, Mohawk River, and Hudson Valley (map in this video at 45:30).
The budget includes a "a comprehensive customer service improvement initiative" aimed at reducing wait times at DMV offices to 30 minutes or less, and adding Saturday hours at some locations.
Among the package of legislation proposed as part of the budget: a provision that would limit plea bargaining for traffic tickets, "to ensure drivers who repeatedly speed do not go unpunished." It also would extend state surcharges ($80) to "the parking violations to which drivers often plead down from speeding violations." And it would set a minimum fine of $50 for phoning or texting while driving. (see Public Protection and General Government (PPGG) Memo, p. 9)
Just launched: OpenBudget, a state website that includes budget info for this year and previous years. Blurbage:
Here you'll find appropriations, budgeted and actual spending, charts, and historical budget information. See how your taxpayer money is spent. Read Governor's Budget Messages going back to 1954. Opening this data to researchers, taxpayers, and the public will add to the field of knowledge, spark innovation, and help improve government.
The most interesting part might be the historical budget information, some of which stretches back to 1954-1955.
Budget presentation video
+ Cuomo admin press release about proposed budget.
+ The "briefing book" (pdf) for the budget.
screengrab: Cuomo admin / Livestream
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