Governor Cuomo Declares State Budget Process a “Sham” has an op-ed penned by our new Governor, Andrew Cuomo, where he outlines the budget process as he now understands it:

It is dictated by hundreds of rates and formulas that are marbleized throughout New York State laws that govern different programs – formulas that have been built into the law over decades, without regard to fiscal realities, performance or accountability.

The formulas operate year after year, generating liabilities that when totaled define the state’s budget growth. The one thing the rates do well is increase year after year. These formulas (predominantly in education and Medicaid funding) are often inserted into the law by pressure from well-connected special interests and lobbyists. When a governor takes office, in many ways the die has already been cast.

He compares it, quite understandably if his analysis is correct, to the scams and schemes his job as Attorney General was meant to root out in other venues. He explains that the 10 billion dollar budget deficit that politicians and journalists alike have discussed – himself included – is basically a function of unreasonably high automatic increases in funding, not on actual numbers or any kind of needs assessment. In fact, if the budget were adjusted by inflation rather than the dictums of these arbitrary systems, the deficit would be a much more manageable 1 billion dollars. All of this is based on his analysis and reporting.

The other side of this that he does not discuss is: if the 13 percent increases are to fund education and Medicare, shouldn’t kids be getting chauffeured to school every day? 13 percent. According to one (admittedly randomly-picked) estimate, Rochester City Schools spend about $1600 per student per year. A 13 percent increase in spending would be about a $2000 pick-up in a single year. Somehow, that doesn’t smell quite right.

I have no idea how accurate the Governor’s numbers are. And I have no way of finding out, either. But if he’s even half-right, where the hell is all that money going?