From New York City to Buffalo and everywhere in between, most unions and community organizations are not pleased with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, revealed on Tuesday. Some activists feel he isn’t focusing enough on green jobs. Some feel that he isn’t showing compassion for the poor or making the rich pay their “fair share.”
“It’s not about the industry of government. It’s not about the bureaucracy of programs. Government is there to serve people,” said Cuomo on Tuesday. The governor’s budget calls for $2.85 billion in cuts each to Medicaid and education, addressing half of the state’s $10 billion budget deficit. This includes a proposed freeze in teacher and school management salaries. Cuomo said that 40 percent of school superintendents across the state make $200,000 or more.
The budget proposes spending $132.9 billion in the fiscal year beginning April 1, 2011, a decrease of 2.7 percent or $3.7 billion from 2010-11, and state operating funds spending of $88.1 billion, an increase of $900 million or 1 percent. Operating funds exclude federal funds and long-term capital spending, and are adjusted to reflect the loss of federal funding from 2010-11 to cover Medicaid costs that were normally paid from State funds and other expenses.
Cuomo said that state spending has grown by over 5.7 percent per year over the last decade, outstripping tax receipts (3.8 percent), personal income (3.7 percent), and inflation (2.4 percent). In other words, Cuomo wants to reduce the cost and size of state government, reduce “excess capacity” and consolidate state agencies (which include layoffs of state employees).
“I know this is going to be hard…Change is hard,” he said on Tuesday.
“We are bleeding people and jobs…It stops today. It stops with this budget,” said Lieutenant Gov. Robert Duffy.
CSEA Local 1000 AFSCME, AFL-CIO President Danny Donohue said that layoffs of “frontline working people who deliver necessary services” will be devastating to families and harmful to New York’s economy and communities.
“CSEA is prepared for whatever may come with a ground and air campaign to deliver the facts to the public,” said Donohue. “We will make our voice heard. We cannot succeed however, without the involvement and mobilization of CSEA members at the grassroots level–standing up for what is right and delivering a reality check to family, friends and neighbors, as well as elected officials.”
John Sampson, Senate Democratic leader, toed the politically neutral line with his statement regarding Cuomo’s budget.
“Only by rethinking the way Albany does business can we give New York a responsible budget that creates good-paying jobs, reduces the tax burden and makes New York more affordable, while still investing in key services middle class families rely on,” said Sampson. “Cuts must be made but with care. We also need to remember our values–to protect our most vulnerable citizens.”
Other organizations and people were more direct in their dislike or support of the budget. Correctional Association of New York Executive Director Robert Gangi was actually pleased by the governor’s stance on dealing with prisons and juvenile detention centers.
“The governor’s proposed downsizing of 3,500 prison beds represents a major step in the right direction,” said Gangi. “Responding appropriately both to the state’s fiscal crisis and the system’s large and growing number of empty beds, he has put flesh on the bone of his previous statement that New York should not create jobs for some people by locking up other people.”
Jennifer March Joly, executive director of the Citizen’s Committee for Children of New York, was more skeptical. “While CCC is pleased that Gov. Cuomo is committed to improving New York’s deeply flawed and costly juvenile justice system, we do not believe that the Executive Budget goes far enough to ensure counties have the resources to truly reform this system,” she said. “Notably, while the Budget proposes to close facilities and eliminate the 12-month waiting period rule, the budget also cuts detention funding to counties.”
Some felt that Cuomo didn’t look out enough for the community and didn’t focus on the growing industry of green jobs…or new jobs, period.
“We need Albany to think big about creating green jobs in our communities now,” said Jennifer Meccozzi, board chair of PUSH Buffalo. “In Buffalo we have an outdated sewer system, brownfields on every corner and an aging housing stock that is uninsulated and full of toxins. We have an obligation to rebuild our neighborhoods in a green and healthy way and put people to work doing it, but we can’t do that without leadership from our Governor in Albany.”
“I’ve been unemployed since the stock market crash of mid-September 2008–over two years,” said Adrienne M. Z. Chevrestt, a member of Good Old Lower East Side, a housing and preservation organization. “Are there no other options than to now throw thousands more into the already overburdened unemployment line, to compete for non-existent jobs with the hundreds of thousands of already long-term unemployed?”
One of the bigger indictments of Cuomo’s budget, at least for progressives, was an e-mail sent by former Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino’s campaign manager, Michael Caputo. “We lost at the polls, but we might still see a policy victory: today, Governor Andrew Cuomo is talking like a fiscal conservative,” he said. “His ideological shift–if it is for real–can be attributed to two factors: New York’s economic reality and the chorus of grassroots protest.”
Caputo’s grassroots protestors are obviously not the traditional Democratic Party voters who elected Cuomo.