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New York State budget gap could be a lot bigger than first thought

November 08, 2017 07:06 PM

ALBANY -- The state comptroller calls it a triple threat. There's already a budget gap. Combine that with weaker than expected revenues and possible cuts to federal programs, financial watchdogs say this could be the state's biggest deficit in nearly a decade. They warn New York taxpayers to hold on tight for a bumpy ride that could jingle some cash out of their pocket book.

"It's going to be a tough year all the way around the horn for everybody," said Assemblyman John McDonald.

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The state budget gap was first projected at $4 billion. Then, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released a report saying income tax receipts were down. A second report predicted the problem will continue into fiscal year 2018-19.

"I think the bottom line is that, it's especially important now at this juncture for the state to be cautious," said Deputy Comptroller Robert Ward.

The Empire Center's E.J. McMahon took the comptroller's projections and said altogether with the governor's projected budget gap, they could amount to an $8.6 billion dollar budget deficit.

"We knew $4 billion was very difficult to swallow. To hear $6, $7, $8 billion. We don't even want to look at it," McDonald said.

It's their job to look at the numbers along with the governor and come up with a solution. They've had wide gaps before since Governor Andrew Cuomo took office in 2007.

"But we were fortunate to have these once in a lifetime settlement funds that were able to offset some of the budget concerns," McDonald added.

McMahon also pointed out some of the legal settlement money was spent on free college tuition and some tax cuts. This time, we're told there's no settlement money. How do they plug an $8.6 billion gap? Medicaid, school aid, state employee benefits and salaries could be on the chopping block.

"There's always been a lot of givens, certain areas like education, are going to see a $1 billion increase. I don't know if that's going to happen this year," said McDonald.

Fiscal watchdog groups said there's a real possibility of some tax increases. They're not exactly sure where. The $8.6 billion gap doesn't even take into account the possible program cuts from the federal government that could cost the state billions more.

The state's budget office released this statement:
"This administration has held spending growth to two percent - lower than any prior administration - which helps the financial plan to weather volatility. But with significant risks stemming from Washington, we are closely monitoring the situation as we prepare the state's midyear update to the financial plan."

Credits

Dan Bazile

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