When lawmakers in Albany passed the state budget last spring, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared it “both timely and fiscally responsible.” Timely was true enough. But fiscally responsible? Not so much.
In a maneuver disclosed weeks later, Cuomo balanced his latest budget with some fiscal sleight-of-hand — deferring $1.7 billion in state Medicaid payments to health insurance plans and providers for one month, from the end of fiscal 2019 to the beginning of fiscal 2020.
As the Empire Center’s Bill Hammond noted, the delay brought to mind some of former Gov. Mario Cuomo’s most notorious budget gimmicks, including state payroll lags and the “sale” of Attica prison to the Urban Development Corp.
But unlike his father, whose early 1990s budgets were awash in red ink, the current Gov. Cuomo had billions of dollars in cash on hand when he chose to put off paying his bills in March. So why defer? The answer boils down to optics: That added $1.7 billion would have broken through Cuomo’s misleadingly named “global cap” on the state-funded share of Medicaid spending — as well as his 2% cap on total state spending.
E.J. McMahon is research director at the Empire Center for Public Policy and an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images