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Cuomo, Mujica talk state budget

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Mon, Mar 22nd 2021 04:30 pm

On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and State Budget Director Robert Mujica Jr. updated New Yorkers on the state's executive budget. Here is an excerpt from that conversation:

Cuomo: We're working on COVID, we're working on vaccinations, we're working on reopening, and we're going to get much more aggressive about the reopening rebuilding. I spoke today about a new season and spring and rebirth, and New York needs to have a rebirth after this COVID nightmare and it's not going to happen on its own. We're going to have to make it happen; and I laid out in the State of the State a very aggressive reopening plan and I want New Yorkers to have confidence in that.

Between now and then we have the budget, which is a little detail that we have to accomplish, and let me ask Rob to give you an update on the budget, please.

Mujica: Thank you, governor. As you know, on Jan. 19, the governor submitted his executive budget. Last week, the Legislature passed their one-house budget bill with their priorities and their conference committees also started on March 16. We've done analysis of both of the spending plans for both Assembly bills, which include double-digit spending increases and tax increases to finance restorations and additions to the governor's budget.

Now, the governor's budget was drafted 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 so, as of now, and our latest talks with the Legislature and staffs have been meeting throughout last week and over the weekend and we've identified over $5 billion in resources available that could be used to restore all of the reductions in the executive budget proposal; so what that means is we have an additional $2.5 billion in revenue from the consensus revenue forecast, which is really that there has been a recovery faster than we had anticipated. We haven't quite recovered completely, but the projection adds another $2.5 billion, which were previously announced, and then we have additional federal aid.

Together, those provide us with over $5 billion, which is enough to restore all of the reductions that were proposed in the executive budget. So, as of right now, we have the resources necessary so that there would be no cuts in the governor's budget; so you wouldn't require any significant level of tax increases to pay for the restorations. So now the conversation is to go to what additions to the budget we have and then how you finance those additions.

We will then through this week try to reach an agreement with houses on what additional resources of the $5 billion are available and then to finance what additional priorities as necessary in the budget. We also have one-time resources. Those are recurring resources largely and then we're also identifying one-time resources to fund one-time expenses that are specifically related to COVID and part of the recovery.

So that's where we are as of today and again staffers are meeting 18 hours a day to move forward and to get to an agreement by the end of the month.

Cuomo: Rob, let me say it in a different way and tell me if I have it right. 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 the federal revenues, we can restore all those cuts. 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. Is that an accurate statement?

Mujica: That's right. That's right, governor. So you have enough for the restoration of the cuts, and we've identified resources to restore all of those. There's the one-time COVID expenses, and a large part of those are funded through the federal funds and other resources that we've identified. And then it's the third category, which you described correctly, which is unrelated to COVID, not related to any reductions, because those are already taken care of, so just new spending items.

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