The majority of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll support Gov. David Paterson’s proposed two-year, $5 billion deficit-reduction plan. His proposal would have a current-year impact of $3 billion.
The plan calls for no tax increases or layoffs. The largest current-year savings would come from $1.8 billion in across-the-board spending reductions, including the $500 million in administrative agency spending cuts Paterson announced Oct. 6, and $1.3 billion in cuts to local assistance. The latter would include a $480 million cut in aid to school districts, a $287 million cut to Medicaid, $184 million cut from other health programs, a $67 million reduction in aid to municipalities and a $62 million cut to higher education programs.
Approval ratings for the governor’s handling of the budget crisis are weighted toward the negative. Thirty-five percent rate Paterson’s performance as poor, one-third rate it fair and one-quarter rate it good. Some 7 percent gave Paterson an excellent rating.
The state Legislature fared much worse. Nearly 90 percent of respondents said legislators are doing a poor job, and 9 percent said fair. Just 2 percent gave the Legislature a good rating.
Roughly 660 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted Oct. 19 and 20.
Do you support or oppose Gov. David Paterson’s $5 billion deficit-reduction plan?
I strongly support it: 37%
I support it: 40%
I oppose it: 13%
I strongly oppose it: 10%
Overall, how would you rate the governor’s performance in dealing with New York’s budget crisis?
Overall, how would you rate the state Legislature’s performance in dealing with the budget crisis?
Here are some readers’ comments:
I admire Paterson for having the backbone that the Legislature lacks to propose these cuts! I am disappointed that a reduction in the state labor force is not part of the proposed cuts.
—Gary O’Dea, managing member, Sourcing Solutions Associates LLC
With almost $1 billion in cuts to health care and education, and no layoffs, this is just more of the same dismantling of the New York infrastructure. No wonder people are moving out of New York to avoid having their tax dollars wasted! There should be massive state employee layoffs, including and especially the bloated Legislature staff. In addition, all elected legislators should volunteer for a 25 percent pay reduction. Shielding the state workers from the pain being experienced by the private sector just continues the fairy tale going on in Albany.
—Joe Fabetes, Rochester
Gov. Paterson has been faced with an extremely difficult situation. I personally applaud his willingness to tackle this challenge regardless of the ultimate political consequences for his re-election. I would vote to keep him in office.
—Ray Hutch, CEO Synergy Global Solutions
It’s time the state makes some tough decisions on cutbacks, just as every American home is having to do.
—Peter Pape, CEO, the Riverside Group
It’s about time! New York State needs to make big cuts. This is a start in the right direction. However, some of these cuts seem to just push the burden off on local and county governments. We need serious cuts at the state level. We need to cut programs. We need to cut people. We need to cut taxes. We need to cut the deficits. The biggest mistake New York ever made was letting state workers unionize. Now the unions run the state and the Democrat party. So none of the needed cuts will happen, until the state has no more tax base.
—Dennis Ditch, Delta Square
Budget cuts alone will not fix this state’s problems. Serious structural changes are needed, such as reducing the number of counties and districts.
—James Tabbi, RAF Tabtronics LLC
It’s time to start trimming some fat and waste from our state’s bloated budget. How much of a crisis is necessary before the slackers in our state Legislature get off their butts and get serious about attacking this deficit? Why is it they are the only ones who can’t see or won’t see the problem? Every day that goes by without any action makes the problem worse and the solution that much more painful. I’ll bet very few of our infamously apathetic legislators plan on spending their retirement years in New York State and the mess they created.
—D. Scott Maxson, MoneyMax Group LLC
This proposal barely scratches the surface and does nothing to fix the long-term financials ailing this state. We need people who will tackle the problem, not Band-Aid the wound.
This is a start, but he needs to lay off several thousand state workers. With New York State having a budget of $131 billion with 19 million people and California having a budget of $91 billion with 39 million people, it’s no wonder we are near or on the brink of bankruptcy. People aren’t even talking about the underfunded pension crisis.
—Floyd G. Rayburn, FG Rayburn Mason Contractors Inc.
It is more smoke and mirrors. Cuts must be made at the state level directly by reducing spending at the state level. Reducing spending at the state level by shifting the burden to local governments does not provide tax relief; it only changes where the taxes (or fees) are collected or paid.
—Randy Peck, Pultneyville
At first glance, Paterson’s recommendations seem appropriate. Any budget deficit must be met with lower spending and without any use of increased fees or taxes. My only concern is that the state may play a shuffle game by shifting even more of the mandated Medicaid coverage down to the local level. Unless the state-mandated funding requirements—which crush our county budgets—are lessened, this will just serve to shift the crisis from the state to the counties.
You can’t spend what you don’t have unless it’s with a Freddie or Fannie. I’d quit cutting the grass on the Thruway and interstates as a better starting point.
It would be interesting to see, for say a given time period of the last five or 10 years, if the increases that happened in each of the categories slated for cuts were in the same proportion to each other as the cuts. I’d also like to know if these cuts are in admin versus key areas—it’s time to prune government!
—Richard Stevenson, co-founder and CEO, CobbleSoft International
There are so many things wrong economically in the state government’s operations that cutting $5 billion, although it sounds good, does not go far enough. There is no silver bullet; no one big-ticket item that will cure our sagging economy, or the budget overruns we are experiencing. We must examine the total process of spending/costs, and as well as the taxation and fees that are imposed on New Yorkers. For example, I would exclude overtime pay as the basis of calculating pensions. There are numerous other "pennies" in the budget that accumulate to the grossly bloated budget. I would also take a close look at some of the state and local tax favors to businesses that never delivered on investments and jobs. Further, note that Gov. Paterson is not the cause of these problems. The state Senate and Legislature—perhaps the most dysfunctional body in the country—owns a major share of the responsibility.
—Dennis Kiriazides, Xerox, retired
We should make all the cuts proposed, and more.
Regarding the governor’s proposal, we’ve got to start somewhere. Creating a new state pension tier is critical to slowing future cost growth, too. The governor should never have signed the budget in the spring. Having an increase in such a financial climate was crazy. The legislature just doesn’t understand governance. It’s only focused on which party is in control. Unless they legislators buy into the governor’s budget reduction proposals, they are risking getting voted out of office in November 2010. Everyone who takes this poll and reads these responses should write, call or e-mail their senators and Assembly members to tell them to support the proposed cuts. Constituents need to speak up!
—Bob Volpe, Citizens for a Better NY
The proposed cuts are not real. They are phony at best, illusions at worst. The State will only redirect the costs to school districts and local governments. Translation: No new state taxes, but plenty of new (and higher) local and school district tax increases. What the state must do is REDUCE STATE EXPENSES. Workforce reductions, staff cuts, hiring freezes and elimination of needless or outdated programs. Cut perks, state-supplied vehicles and limos, expense accounts, etc. A serious effort must be placed on labor negotiations for public sector employees to bring wages, benefits and cost sharing for health care benefits into line with the private sector. If you feel public sector employees are being singled out I encourage you to visit <A HREF=" http://seethroughny.net/" target="window">SeethroughNY.com</a>. New York is very generous in the wage and benefit department, as compared with those of us in the private sector who pay for all of it. Passage of the proposed new "tier" in the state retirement fund will also help control costs down the road. And if the current elected officials will not do it, we should vote them all out and bring in people who will.
—George Thomas, Ogden
It’s about time. I couldn’t believe the governor’s proposed $9 billion dollar budget increase in the face of our economic crisis, Fed bailout or no Fed bailout. The Feds can "tax and spend," and now "borrow and spend" and "print and spend," but the state has limits on what it can tax and now there are some limits on what it spends. The tax cuts should be doubled. Maybe if the governor doubles the tax cuts, we can get Tom Golisano back to help me pay for what’s left. Remember: "A crisis is a terrible thing to waste," Rahm Emanuel.
—Clifford Jacobson, WebHomeUSA.com
Go for it. It’s about time we started living within our means and not taxing more. Perhaps if we keep cutting the budgets they will figure out we cannot give everything to everyone and they also should reduce salaries and benefits. Perhaps even the school districts will get conservative and cut teachers and administration salaries. If they don’t get it, they can’t spend it and if we get a backbone we will vote down excessive budgets. Around here our teachers are getting a 4 percent raise for three years with no evaluations. Do you know anyone else getting a guaranteed raise? The whole philosophy of the state and all the public servants is like we are one big charity. That’s why we are the highest taxed and why we cannot get jobs. Go for all the reform you can handle.
It would be unfair to judge whether Mr. Paterson’s proposed cuts are enough and in the correct places without knowledge of the entire picture. I do believe one has to ask how the state enters the middle of October and is surprised to find out it will exceed the budget by $4 billion or more. One can certainly argue that spending and income are clearly out of line. The obvious questions that come to mind are: Who developed the budget and who is controlling the spending based on the budget? The accountability has to fall on the people controlling the purse strings. It is becoming far too commonplace to accept mismanagement of budgets and misappropriation of budgetary funds. I am sure the budget/spending process is more complex than appears but the fact remains that spending cannot exceed income. This is simple logic, so it would seem the issue is not with the people managing the spending but rather with the controls that should be providing accurate information in a timely manner. Maybe this is where investments should be made so as to avoid a $4 billion deficit in the future.
—William Nash, Ultrafab Inc.
Seriously, now let’s double his initiative to $10 billion in cuts and get a head start on next year’s ballooning expenses along with New York’s long-continuing, ever-outrageous deficits. I expect that every special interest — from state employee unions to the never-ending, over-bloated state departments — will scream how bad this is for the "people" who need services. But the reality is that the cuts are not nearly deep enough nor are they systemic enough to make much of a difference.
—Bob Fischl, Honeoye Falls
Although I commend the governor for his solution to the state’s monetary problems, it is a GOOD first step; I do not hold much hope for the corrupt politicians supporting him. The corrupt Legislature is too beholden to the special interests groups and more concerned with reelection than doing what is correct for the state.
—JA DePaolis, Consultative Services
Our state has a huge budget, something on the order of $130 billion a year. We spend more per resident than any other state and about 2x what the average state spends per resident. While $5 billion over two years is something, the figure is really just a pittance. We could cut our state budget by $30 billion or $40 billion and still be spending way more than most states per resident.
—Doug Lyon, Lyon Capital Management
We have to learn to live within our means. We would have avoided some of this crisis if the budget had been more realistic.
—Roz Goldman, Appraiser of Fine Art
Cuts are clearly needed. There is no way that our community and others can avoid being impacted. I’m not sure the proposed cuts are targeted completely appropriately but at least he is trying to solve the problem. If the legislature has better ideas it’s up to them to put them out there and negotiate, quickly, a better deal. Thinking we can solve the deficit without pain is foolish.
Well … it’s a start.
—Mike Necci, MikAnd, Inc.
OK, so Gov. Paterson has the guts to cut spending to communities but not to mandate state government layoffs. What is THIS! Just a shell game to say, "We’ll just let the communities lay off people at the (very) local level so we can keep the CSEA quiet. COME ON, Governor. Why does the state ALWAYS transfer the liability for budget cuts onto the localities by simply cutting funding? Cluck, cluck, Governor. I think it’s a marginally effective plan at best. Savings, yes. Equality in shared pain, NO.
In most organizations, leaders reduce spending to match the reality of lower revenues. Unfortunately, policy makers in New York are reluctant to make tough but fiscally responsible decisions that will benefit us in the long run. In a state budget of $120 billion dollars, $3 billion in cuts this year equates to about 2.5%. Many private businesses and non-profits are cutting more than that—it’s perfectly reasonable to expect state leaders to do their part to reduce spending.
—Matthew McDermott, SPHR Employee Benefits Consultant, The Landmark Group
It’s time all areas receiving state funding, including schools, look at ways to reduce costs just as businesses are forced to do during poor economic times. We just can’t have it both ways—ask for more funding from the State and lower taxes at the same time.
—Karen Kall, On Kall Marketing
Cut taxes and cut spending. That will grow the economy and increase wealth. It’s that simple.
Our esteemed governor has again taken the easy way out. Instead of cutting bloated state government costs (i.e., salaries, pensions, welfare programs, etc.), he is shifting the burden to local municipalities which will certainly result in higher local taxes for all of us. Although local governments should absolutely make spending cuts too, it would be nice to see direct cuts in state government first as a model for local government to follow. Isn’t that called leadership?
—David Wagner, Vanteon
With spending up some 47 percent to schools in the past few years, the cuts do not go far enough.
This governor has zero credibility! How could he "give" $200 for each child under assistance for "going back to school" and then cut aid to schools and local governments. How many jobs will be lost at the local level due to our "generous" governor? Why didn’t he give that "going back to school" bonus to our struggling school districts?
—Jerry Lighthouse, C.P.M., CPIM Advanced Purchasing Technology, LLC
Finally he is stepping up to the problem. Of course, all the special interest groups will kill any significant reductions in the budget and our financial crises will continue, causing more jobs to be lost and more people to leave the state.
—Rick Corey, president, OpticsProfessionals LLC
I don’t oppose making tough cuts in this economy, I oppose his unwillingness to consider other options, and going with what he thinks is politically expedient. Millions—if not billions—could be saved by cutting all of the "consultants" working for the state, many for years, right beside regular employees, but making often three times the salaries. He consistently attempts to blame NY’s problems on the public workers, who have given more and sacrificed more than anyone else in this economy and are still not thanked for it. His approach is throwing a "band-aid" on a bleeding wound, it’s a temporary measure that will have lasting negative consequences, and not begin to address the source of the problems.
—Julie Schmidtke, NILICO
As a conservative, we need to take off our political blinders and give this governor a vote of confidence on his proposed budget reduction.
—Jack Bent, Charter Brokerage
Although I support the deficit reduction plan, a REAL plan would be backed by the legislature, would consolidate our many "authorities" under direct control, eliminate duplication of services, reduce union economic strangleholds, and would address the issues of high taxes and fees in NYS. If we don’t do more to stimulate small business and entrepreneurial growth in NYS we are doomed to a spiraling disastrous economy of lost opportunities and jobs, with falling tax revenues leading to larger and larger deficits.
—Lee Drake, CEO, OS-Cubed, Inc.
Both the governor and the legislature rate poor for passing a budget this spring with a huge spending increase, plus tax and fee increases, when the population change is near zero and the economy is in terrible shape.
—Jim Haefner, Pittsford
It’s about time someone stood up for common sense. Taxes are out of control. No one has the courage to cut, I mean everyone. The state, counties, cities, towns and villages and of course all school districts must at the very least have no increase for the next 15 months; and preferably cut expenses/taxes.
Absolutely NOWHERE have I seen that the Governor, or ANY of his subordinates, including politicians, are going to take a reduction in the salaries, bennies or perks! When you are hired by a company to do a job, normally some, if not many of the expenses come out of your own pocket and are not subsidized by the company. If you are hungry—buy your own lunch. … So many have either lost either total income, and/or health, while politicians are totally subsidized by John Q. Public! It’s nice to say cut this, cut that, YOU have to give up/in, but where else are cuts/savings to be found? Perhaps we need non-politicos to look at the budget! I am not interested in being published, JUST to have my comments/statements known/shared!
—Sonia C. Lochner, RE Broker
I find it mind-boggling that California has a state budget $35 billion dollars less than New York’s, yet has far more people living there. This state is grossly inefficient, and wastes money like no other. We need more leadership in making this a place where we can afford to live and work.
—Jason Stone, self-employed
Budgets and plans are like wish lists for Christmas. They are full of hope, but lack certainty. Gov. Paterson provided a plan (wish list) to solve the financial problems of New York State. He fulfilled his obligation. The legislators (like Santa Claus) will decide what will turn into reality. Our legislators, however, prefer to give gifts, and not withhold the goodies that their constituents receive. Thus, whatever plan the Governor would come up with would result in vicious outbursts. I think that the Governor did his required duty. The cure of the NYS spending spree cannot be cured as long as the NYS citizens are not behind a move to honestly look at all expenditures of the state. This includes the usual suspects, but also the welfare request of the businesses, like the rebuilders of Midtown and Medley Mall, and many others.
—Ingo H. Leubner, Crystallization Consulting
I oppose the Paterson proposal because it doesn’t go nearly far enough in addressing the chronic budgetary problems of the state. The state needs to make revolutionary changes in the way it does business. To start, there should be a 2 year wage freeze to bring state salaries more in line with the private sector. State employee benefits should be frozen also and probably cut back, again to be more in line with the real world. We have become a state consisting of 3 groups-one is the state employees who are completely insulated from the dire straits that so many taxpayers are in. The second is the taxpayers who are strained to the limit, fearful for their jobs, and cutting back on everything. Those that can are leaving the state in ever increasing numbers. The third is those receiving state benefits who are in many cases totally dependent on the state to be their provider. They are struggling as well. Nothing will ever improve without an environment in our state which encourages investment and manufacturing-this will require significant tax cuts and tax credits for appropriate businesses.
The private sector has layoffs and stops increases in pay when things are not good. I don’t see why the public sector can’t do the same including a change in the benefit package that is so generous.
—Charles Kaplan, KCC Holding Inc.
The New York State government has contempt for the voters in the way that they posture and point fingers and annually play brinkmanship with the budget. The voting public must like being played as fools since they re-elect these politicians every time they run!
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