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Tax hikes, schmax hikes: Cuomo claims they found $5 billion to avoid big COVID-19 cuts

March 12, 2021 - Mount Vernon, NY- Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announces the launch of the “Roll Up Your Sleeve” Campaign to promote houses of worship across the state to sign up as vaccination sites for their communities. (Photo: Don Pollard/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

Significant tax hikes may not be in order, after all, to cover the state’s $15 billion budgetary needs as Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget director, Robert Mujica, announced on Monday that $5 billion had been found to put off drastic deficit measures.

The news comes a week after the state legislature submitted and passed their budget bills outlining priorities that would require, and include, tax hikes to cover “double-digit spending increases” proposed by Albany lawmakers to facilitate a recovery from COVID-19.

“The governor’s budget was crafted [in January] at a time when there was a lot of uncertainty with relation to the economic recovery for the state we had a $15 billion deficit, as well as uncertainty for any bailout from Washington to make up for our revenue loss. Since then we have more clarity,” Mujica said. “As of now and our latest talks with the legislature and staff have been meeting throughout last week, and over the weekend, and we’ve identified over $5 billion in resources available to that could be used to restore all of the reductions in the executive budget proposal. So what that means is we have an additional two and a half billion dollars in revenue from the consensus revenue forecast which is really that there had been a recovery in receipts.”

According to Mujica, the Cuomo administration throughout the coming week will negotiate with the legislature to identify any additional resources to restore cuts to the budget and cover one-time COVID-19 expenses which have been covered in part with help from the federal government through the American Rescue Act.

“There are three basic categories: the first category is restoring cuts that our budget put in place once we hit the downturn and between the additional revenues that have come in and federal revenues, we can restore all those cuts,” Cuomo said. “Second category are the one time COVID-related needs, rental assistance, small business assistance, unemployment assistance. That has been largely met by additional federal resources, categorized to those specific areas. The one time COVID-related response needs, let’s call them. The third category are additional needs identified by the legislature, above and beyond the COVID response measures provided for by the feds.”

Cuomo, after shutting out the media entirely during an earlier appearance on Monday, spoke only to broadcast news agencies during this Q&A session in which remained on-topic. No questions regarding the eight women accusing him sexual harassment were taken.

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