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New York's Budget Plan Is Far from Progressive — but at Least It Was on Time

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New York's Budget Plan Is Far from Progressive — but at Least It Was on Time

New York Post March 31, 2019
Urban PolicyNYC

Albany lawmakers took their money and ran early Sunday morning — leaving Gov. Cuomo with a big grin on his puss and, no surprise here, taxpayers with substantially lighter wallets.

That is, the Legislature got in under the legal deadline for a new state budget — a $175.6 billion double whopper with extra cheese that leaves New York the second most profligate state spender in America, behind California. But enough whining about taxpayers.

On-time budget passage ensured lawmakers a $10,000 raise — hey, don’t ask; this is New York — and it extended Cuomo’s streak of on-time spending plans to nine.

Now lawmakers are a little richer. And Cuomo can call himself Gov. Fiscal Wizard — which, be assured, he will.

So look for descriptives like “progressive,” “innovative,” “compassionate” and “courageous” to be woven into the rhetoric this self-serving budget is generating. But virtually none that is true.

The budget, in fact, is principally intended to benefit the state’s political class — just like always.

To wit, the agreement incorporates a minimum of $100 million in public financing for political campaigns — another self-administered cash bath for lawmakers, modeled on New York City’s plan.

And anybody who thinks that’s been a good deal needs to take a long, hard look at Gotham’s elected leadership.

Sure, the deal earmarks an additional billion dollars for New York’s public-education cartel to burn. (Teachers and administrators everywhere will complain that it’s not enough.)

It adds more dough to the bone-crushing sums spent on public health in the Empire State. (Health-care union bosses and hospital honchos will be equally ungrateful.)

And now come some new kids with their hands out — the direct beneficiaries of America’s newest public-policy pot-skimming scheme: “congestion pricing.”

These include Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, New York’s voracious hard-hat unions, the city’s well-connected contractors and the numberless hangers-on and advantage-takers who always pop up whenever there are public dollars to be pocketed.

The money — revenue from a user tax on drivers entering Manhattan from below 60th Street beginning at some unspecified point in the future — ostensibly is meant to repair or replace MTA hardware. And nobody seriously denies the need for this.

But the MTA — firmly in the grasp of its special interest — already absorbs billions annually for infrastructure refurbishment, to no particularly good effect.

So what reason is there to believe the new money will be any better spent than the dollars the agency already pours into the tunnels and onto the trains?

No reason whatsoever — although Cuomo, who is terrified of the unions, the contractors and the advantage-takers, will bite his tongue off before he’ll talk honestly about the issue.

As for a candid discussion of union work rules, contract-bidding-regulation reform and value for dollars spent — well, just forget about that.

Pothole repair has always been on the New York gravy train, and always will be. That’s just the way it is.

But undertaking a transit-infrastructure renewal project of the magnitude ostensibly included in Sunday’s budget deal without reform is basically just pounding cash into holes in the ground.

Nothing new, in other words. But at least the budget passed on time. Little steps for little feet.

This piece originally appeared at New York Post

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Bob McManus is a contributing editor of City Journal. He retired as editorial page editor of the New York Post in 2013 and has since worked as a freelance editor, columnist, and writer.

Photo by marcusamelia / iStock

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