Empire State Passes Fiscal Plan During Pandemic

The New York State Legislature has passed a budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed that budget into law.

This year’s budget process was strikingly different than the budget process in previous years. Social distancing was in place as legislators voted remotely or in small groups. Many wore face masks and latex gloves. The Capitol was closed to the public, and legislative halls normally teeming with lobbyists and competing demonstrations were eerily silent.

In January 2020, Gov. Cuomo was facing a $6.2 billion deficit and proposed a $178 billion fiscal plan. Between then and now, New York has been grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic. The economic impact of this outbreak has caused the anticipated deficit to balloon to a potential $15 billion; however, the enacted budget is still over $177 billion. Essentially, the new budget provides for the same level of spending as last year’s budget did. The Trump Administration is sending billions in federal aid to the Empire State. This will help, but it is not enough. Two things must happen in 2020 and early 2021 to achieve what Gov. Cuomo is calling a “balanced” budget. First, the Legislature has given the Governor the authority to reduce spending on a quarterly basis during the 2020-2021 fiscal year. (Many Albany insiders understand that this year’s fiscal plan is written in pencil, not in ink.) Second, the Legislature is permitting the Governor to borrow up to $11 billion to balance the budget. By passing this irresponsible budget, the Legislature has tacitly ceded some of its authority to the Governor and has punted the difficult task of passing a budget that is actually balanced.

Despite being urged by Christians and many others to pass a clean budget that avoided divisive policy issues, Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature included a variety of items in the budget that could and should have been considered at another time. From a pro-life perspective, the most objectionable of these items, is the legalization of paid surrogacy, which is a key LGBT policy priority (and a major Cuomo priority) that New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms has fought against for many years. NYCF is saddened by the legalization of this destructive practice. We predict that the legalization of paid surrogacy will lead to more frozen embryos being discarded, more women being harmed by the painful process of egg harvesting, more confusion in the lives of children, and more normalization of family structures that purposefully deprive children of either a mother or a father.

In the midst of significant fiscal challenges, the Legislature and the Governor also set aside $100 million to create a statewide system of taxpayer-funded political campaigns. NYCF has opposed this practice for many years; New Yorkers’ tax dollars should not be used to pay for campaigns that they may not support, and there is no reason to believe that taxpayer funding will promote fairness or remedy the inequities of New York’s broken political system.

We take comfort in the fact that the budget does not provide for the legalization of recreational marijuana.