Cuomo Pops Social Policy In State Fiscal Plan

On January 21, 2020, Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled his 2020-2021 state budget proposal.

It’s not a pretty picture.

Gov. Cuomo and the State Legislature are facing a daunting $6.1 billion budget deficit. This reality will be central to the upcoming negotiations in anticipation of the March 31 budget deadline. The budget deficit is leading the Governor to consider various ideas—some of them deeply ill-advised—to bring in new revenue.

One of those bad ideas is recreational marijuana. Gov. Cuomo is pushing to legalize recreational marijuana in the budget and to establish a state university center for the study of hemp and cannabis. According to the News & Advance, the Governor proposes to tax marijuana dispensaries at a 20% rate and to impose other taxes on marijuana cultivation. Some sources estimate that marijuana sales would generate $300 million in tax revenue; however, there is little mention of the offsetting costs that the state would incur in legalizing this dangerous drug.

The Governor has also proposed to include sports gambling expansion in the budget. Currently, bettors are only allowed to bet on sports in the sports lounges at the state’s full-service gambling casinos. Gov. Cuomo’s proposal would allow sports betting throughout those casinos. While this idea is not as problematic as a proposed constitutional amendment to allow sports betting throughout the state, it is still a step in the wrong direction.

Gov. Cuomo has also proposed to include paid surrogacy legislation and a so-called “equal rights amendment”  in the budget, despite the fact that neither proposal would appear to have any real budgetary impact.