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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Jerry Kremer
The budget's on time. That's the good news.

Within a few days after you read this, New York state will have a new budget. It will mark the earliest budget passage in the past 30 years. Will it be a historic budget? Not really.

The state’s fiscal picture is pretty much a mirror image of the rest of the nation. New York, like Washington, D.C., isn’t exactly swimming in cash. This region has been through some tough times, very much like the rest of the nation. Just like in the nation’s capital, there’s no appetite for more cuts or revenue increases.

In the final moments of this year’s budget negotiations, there’s more than likely going to be a breakthrough on some difficult issues. Governor Cuomo is pushing hard for an increase in the minimum wage, and State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is anxious to get some cuts in small-business taxes. Each side will have to give something, and it may be reflected in the final budget or before the Legislature goes home in June.

The magical days of large increases in school aid are long since gone. The state’s property tax cap is severely straining the budgets of some of the smaller school districts that don’t have big shopping malls or power plants to tax. Those that still have cash surpluses will be able to survive, at least for this year.

Places such as Nassau County, which is in deep financial trouble, won’t get any kind of serious state cash infusions. There are no hidden state surpluses that can be shared with Nassau or any other suburban county. Suffolk County is in far better shape, but is wrestling with a big deficit. County Executive Steve Bellone is trying hard to get out from under, but he’s getting little help from the state or county legislatures.

Downstate New York is suffering badly in the lingering aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Between losses in real estate tax revenue and a series of layoffs on Wall Street, there is no steady stream of new dollars coming in. Upstate continues to suffer due to years of serious decline and the lack of any major plant expansion. The failure of the state to adopt a hydrofracking law for gas exploration has put a further damper on the economic hopes of most of the border counties.

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