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Cuomo Calls for Cuts

Call him the ax man.

Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to chop an overgrown state budget with agency consolidation and fundamental changes, as revealed his executive budget plan for 2011-12. The slash-and-burn proposal aims to eliminate the projected budget gap with cuts in almost every area of state spending – including reductions in Medicaid and school aid.

“New York is at a crossroads and we must seize this opportunity, make hard choices and set our state on a new path toward prosperity,” said the governor, who also vowed not to raise taxes. “We simply cannot afford to keep spending at our current rate.”

According to the governor, state spending has grown over 5.7 percent in the last decade, while the state has reaped very little in return. Cuomo said that while the state is number one in education spending, it is number 34 in results; the state is also number one in spending on health care, but only number 21 in results.

“We spend more than we make,” said the governor. “That is never a good formula in life.”

In order to fix these and other inequities in the state budget, significant pains will likely be felt by more than a few areas. Cuomo is planning cuts in Medicaid and local school aid by more than $2 billion each – closing about half of the projected $10 billion budget gap.

In response to the proposed cuts, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that the city is willing to share the burden of fixing the state’s financial crisis – as long as all things are equal.

“Unfortunately, the budget does not treat New York City equitably. It eliminates 100 percent of the city’s revenue sharing aid – more than $300 million – while cutting other localities by just 2 percent,” said the mayor. “The residents of our five counties pay a disproportionate amount of state taxes and they deserve the same level of support.”

Cuomo said the goal of the cuts is to return fiscal responsibility to the state so that the economy can strengthen and jobs can eventually be created. According to Cuomo, the state cannot keep throwing money at its problems.

“The time to redesign state government is long overdue,” he said. “We need to reduce costs, reward performance and put people first. This is about students, patients and taxpayers – government is supposed to serve people and that is what we have to get back to.”

And part of serving people means consolidation, according to the governor. He plans to merge 11 existing agencies or authorities into four entities. Included in these consolidations are the department of corrections and the state division of parole, two of the state’s largest agencies – this means that job cuts are almost a certainty.

“Just like New York’s families and businesses have had to do, New York state must face economic reality,” said Cuomo. “This budget achieves real, year-to-year savings while restructuring the way we manage our state government. This is the first step toward building a new New York.”

Among those first steps is a property tax cap – a measure that won overwhelming support from the state senate, but remains unpopular among democratic legislators in the assembly. The senate voted 45 to 17 in favor of the cap, but some senators – including Jose Peralta – were perplexed by the swift passage of such a complicated bill.

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