ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - Gov. Andrew Cuomo pulled a fiscal rabbit out of a hat, proposing a new state budget that, despite a $6 billion deficit, offers few spending cuts and promises the city a net increase in aid.
Cuomo didn't actually utter the word "deficit" in unveiling his $178 billion budget - $2 billion more than last year - but he did practically crow, reports CBS2's Marcia Kramer.
"This budget, every area gets more," he said.
That's not to say the state doesn't have a shortfall - it does, $6 billion. It actually depends on what your definition of "more" is.
In "Cuomo Land," more means spending less than you intended.
Education aid was supposed to go up 4%, but it will only go up 3%.
Medicaid spending that was supposed to increase 6% will only go up 3%.
About the gap, the governor appointed a task force to come up with $2.5 billion in Medicaid savings, efficiencies that are not supposed to affect local governments.
"It's not just about the money, it's how you spend the money," said Cuomo.
The spending plan included a laundry list of pet projects the governor wants enacted by the April 1 budget deadline:
- banning sexual predators from the subways
- redesigning the state flag
- legalizing marijuana
- forcing legislators and elected officials making over $100,000 a year to release their tax returns
- capping insulin payments at $100 a month
- bail reform
The question for many is whether Cuomo is a fiscal magician or guilty of fuzzy math, especially in closing the Medicaid gap.
"There's no way, no way you can say you'll have no effect on local governments and no effects on beneficiaries and no one's going to get hurt," said Sen. John Flanagan, the Senate minority leader.
"What Gov. Cuomo has done is redefine what deficit means," said Gen. John Liu. "He says it's not an actual cut in spending, it's a cut from where the spending was projected to be. Well, the problem is the spending is projected to be where it needs to be, so not spending that amount is going to hurt people."
For the record, budget officials suggest Mayor Bill de Blasio has nothing to worry about. Despite some small cuts on the margins, they say he ends up on the plus side of the ledger to the tune of $300 million.
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