You likely have already heard that last night, for the first time in 18 years, the State budget was finalized before the April 1st deadline. From our friends and partners of Unshackle Upstate and Hinman Straub, allow me to share with you the following synopsis of what was (and what was not) included in the 2011-2012 budget:
Legislature Approves 2011-2012 State Budget
The State Legislature has completed action on all of the state’s 2011-12 budget bills.
This is the first time in decades that a state budget has been in place before April 1st, and both the timeliness and the content of the budget are being viewed as significant achievements for Governor Cuomo.
The approximately $132.5 billion spending plan represents a 2% spending reduction from the 2010-11 fiscal year. It also closes a $10 billion deficit without imposing any new broad-based taxes, and reduces the projected 2012-13 budget deficit from $15 billion to $2 billion. In so doing, lawmakers agreed to a series of actions that will result in spending cuts for education and healthcare, the merger of several state agencies, and the closure of a number of prisons.
Highlights of the enacted budget include:
- Recharge NY – creation of a permanent economic development power program to replace the Power for Jobs program
- Creates a new Department of Financial Regulation — by merging the Banking and Insurance Departments
- State Agency consolidation – the Consumer Protection Board is merged into the Department of State; NYSTAR is merged into the Department of Economic Development (also known as the Empire state Development Corporation); and the Division of Parole and the Department of Correctional Services are emerged into a new Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
- Prison closures – the Governor gains the authority to reduce up to 3,700 beds with just 60 days notice
- Cuts in education and health spending — including a two-year appropriation that includes a small increase in the 2012-13 fiscal year
- Education Performance and Efficiency Grants – makes $500 million in competitive grants available to school districts that demonstrate significant improvements in student performance or that undertake long term structural changes to reduce costs and improve efficiency
- Regional Economic Development Councils – these are funded through the budget, but the details of these entities will be established in an Executive Order to be issued by the Governor
- Enhancing the Excelsior Jobs Program – provides greater benefits to support job creation efforts
- Juvenile Justice Reform – makes significant changes to the state’s juvenile justice system, to encourage greater use of community-based alternatives, downsize the state juvenile facilities system by more than 30%, invest resources in enhanced services for juveniles in state custody
A number of high-profile matters were not part of the budget. These include:
- an extension of the high-earner tax (“millionaires tax”)
- a cap on medical malpractice awards
- an extension of rent control laws
- a real property tax cap
- significant mandate relief
- the proposed HCRA surcharge on health insurance policies; and
- UB 2020 – though the Governor has committed to holding a stakeholder summit on this important Western New York initiative
Legislators were able to complete work on budget bills despite the presence of hundreds of protestors organized by the Strong Economy for All Coalition. The protesters, who included public school teachers, college instructors, students, New York City renters and health care advocates, sought additional funding for education, and want the “millionaires tax” extended in order to pay for it.