NY agencies asked to keep spending flat

ALBANY – State agencies are being asked to assume zero growth in their budgets next year as state revenue is less than expected and as the state typically provides major increases in school aid, infrastructure and health care.

The request is the sixth year in a row the Cuomo administration has asked agencies to keep spending flat. The state's 2017-18 fiscal year starts April 1.

Cuomo has maintained a pledge to keep state spending to less than 2 percent a year.

"While the surpluses of recent years have fortified our financial plan and bolstered reserves, it is absolutely vital that we remain vigilant about responsible fiscal policy and management," the Oct. 4 memo to agencies from budget director Robert Mujica said.

The state's finances have been boosted by more than $8 billion from bank settlements in recent years, but the money has been largely designated for tax-relief programs and infrastructure projects, including construction of a new Tappan Zee Bridge in the Hudson Valley.

Now the state is also dealing with $950 million less in personal-income tax revenue than originally estimated, Mujica said.

Cuomo's office often has to find savings in the $147 billion state budget to offset increases in school aid, the largest state piece of the budget.

School aid has increased by more than 5 percent a year recently, hitting nearly $25 billion in the current fiscal year, which ends March 31.

There are about 180,000 state employees in 59 agencies, the SUNY system and the offices of attorney general and state comptroller.

The governor's office has direct control over about 65 percent of the state workforce.

Unions and some special-interest groups have railed against the freeze in agency spending, saying it has led to limited staffing to oversee programs and services.

Environmental Advocates, for example, said in a report in December that cuts in clear-air funding led to 25 percent reduction in air monitors since 2009 through the state Department of Environmental Conservation.


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