The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Task Force Warns of NY Budget Meltdown

Last week it was New Jersey, this week it’s New York. The nonpartisan State Budget Crisis Task Force just released a report stating that New York’s fiscal accounting is “papered over with gimmicks” and that the state will face a serious budget crisis unless it changes course quickly. The report does commend Governor Andrew Cuomo for taking real steps to address the issue, but it also warns that, as in New Jersey, even these measures are not nearly enough to keep the state’s finances in line. As usual in these cases, high spending on pensions, services, and entitlement programs like Medicaid is growing much too fast for revenues to keep up. The New York Times reports:

As one major area of concern, the report highlighted the state’s enormous Medicaid budget, which is larger than those of Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas combined. The report said that while the Cuomo administration had put in place a cap on annual increases in health care spending, it was not certain the measure would drive down costs over the long run.

Rather than honestly dealing with the problem, many politicians prefer accounting tricks:

The report also questioned a new borrowing mechanism that allows the state, local governments and public institutions to reduce their pension contributions in the short term in exchange for higher payments, with interest, over the long term. The report called the mechanism a gimmick that amounted to a “slippery slope” for the governments involved.

In short, the budget is a stinking mess, and New York has now officially joined the list of blue states where public sector unions and weak or corrupt political leaders promise utopia to voters but drag them down into fiscal crisis. Like their blue colleagues in other states, New York pols are quickly learning that even an able and serious governor cannot single-handedly undo decades of disastrous fiscal policy.

Ugly, painful cuts and protracted political battles loom for a state that has spent itself into a corner in pursuit of a set of social policies it cannot afford.

Published on December 20, 2012 12:39 pm