BY MARINA VILLENEUVE
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faces a Tuesday deadline to release a budget proposal expected to address a looming $6 billion deficit fueled by soaring Medicaid costs.
Advocacy groups from across the state are hoping for increased spending on schools, mental health programs, anti-poverty efforts, substance abuse prevention, environmental protection and infrastructure projects. Some liberal groups are calling for higher taxes on the wealthy.
But Cuomo has warned of a tough budgetary season and said he won’t support new taxes to help close a budgetary gap. The Democratic governor’s proposal will cover the next state budget, starting April 1.
The governor has wide influence on the state budget, which has increasingly included policy proposals on top of spending. The release of Cuomo’s proposal will launch a process that includes hearings, legislative spending proposals and tweaks from the governor ahead of a March 31 deadline.
His administration so far has announced 1% cuts in payments for the nation’s largest Medicaid program, which serves over a third of New Yorkers. Leaders of nursing homes and hospitals warn further cuts will further harm vulnerable New Yorkers and are calling on the state to work with providers to find possible savings.
Meanwhile, the comptroller announced Friday that the state could save nearly $800 million by eliminating unnecessary payments and collecting rebates from drug makers. Cuomo and his administration have also hinted they could fill the budget gap by delaying Medicaid payments.
The governor used his 2020 State of the State address this month to announce he will push for a tax cut for small businesses, require certain New York businesses to provide paid sick leave and call on voters to approve $3 billion in bonds to fund habitat restoration and flood reduction efforts. Cuomo has also said New York’s economic development and energy authorities will help provide funding for projects ranging from port infrastructure to offshore wind.
It is unclear whether the governor’s budget will include a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana for adult use.
Cuomo’s 2019 budget proposal included legalization of recreational marijuana, but it didn’t end up in the final budget over disagreements on where an estimated $300 million in annual revenues from marijuana sales should go.
Lawmakers instead reduced criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana.
The governor called for legalization in his 2020 State of the State address and has said he wants to work with neighboring states that are also considering legalization. Cuomo, who has expressed concern over vaping-related illnesses, has also called for a new state university center to study cannabis and hemp.
Cuomo proposed a $176 billion budget last year, a 2% increase over the previous fiscal year.