New state budget doubles down on a bad bet


“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em. Know when to fold ’em.”

Those lines, from Kenny Rogers’ iconic recording of “The Gambler,” contain a valuable lesson: Sometimes the right move is throwing your cards away. Chasing a bad bet because you’re stubborn, arrogant or simply in denial can leave you in serious trouble.

Regrettably, that seems to be a lesson that Albany’s leadership refuses to learn. Rather than admit that what they’ve done isn’t working — as evidenced by the fact that New York state has the highest population loss, the second-highest taxes and the second-worst business climate of any state in the county, according to Forbes magazine — Gov. Kathy Hochul and the New York City politicians who control the State Legislature are doubling down on their bad bets in the new state budget. Even worse, it’s our money they’re gambling with.

Amid an escalating affordability crisis — and despite dire warnings from the state comptroller about needing to rein in state spending increases because of a catastrophic budget gap projected over the next few years — the recently adopted 2024-25 state budget spends a whopping $237 billion, the largest budget in New York’s history. That’s an alarming $8 billion increase over the current spending plan, and above the 2 percent tax cap. It’s also an increase of more than 30 percent over the last pre-Covid budget. Since the current leadership in the Legislature gained control in 2018, state spending has soared by a whopping $70 billion.

Exorbitant spending of taxpayer dollars is only part of the problem. What legislators are spending those dollars on (and what they’re not) is the other part.

We’re paying over $2 billion to support illegal immigrants, but not providing more than $350 million in state funding owed to the Nassau County Medical Center — funding that Nassau’s only safety-net hospital desperately needs in order to remain operational.

We’re spending billions more on initiatives that don’t positively advance the interests of the state of New York — all at the expense of hardworking taxpayers. We’re implementing more restrictive rights on property owners, pouring more money into the Metropolitan Transportation Authority without oversight, coddling criminals, tip-toeing around Tier 6 pension improvements, and changing access to the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program for senior and disabled state residents, just to name a few.

While the budget delivers a few wins for New Yorkers, like answering our calls to oppose cuts in school foundation aid, making minor fixes to Tier 6 pensions, and making robust investments in our Department of Environmental Conservation and infrastructure, it falls short when it comes to providing meaningful relief to struggling families and businesses, and misses countless opportunities to make transformational and fundamental changes to turn our state around and point it in the right direction. It includes no tax relief plan, no plan to address the enormous financial shortfalls, and no plan to improve the business climate. In short, it totally ignores three major problems we face.

As the song goes, “Every gambler knows that the secret to survivin’ is knowin’ what to throw away and knowin’ what to keep.” Albany’s leaders need to recognize that their policies are failing, and they’re making a bad bet. It’s time to throw away these cards before we go broke.

Steve Rhoads represents the 5th Senate District.