Cuomo to wait until after 2020 election before taking budget action, report says

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing off tough financial decisions until after the 2020 election — and has not released blueprints for a plan B in the event federal funding doesn’t come through to help New York recover from the pandemic-fueled fiscal crisis.

The state Division of the Budget issued a mid-year budget report Friday that avoids addressing massive budget gaps as the governor waits to see if his pal, former Vice President Joe Biden, is elected president and Democrats take over the U.S. Senate.

The report notes that no agreement has been reached in Congress on providing a recovery package to aid cash-strapped state and local governments,” the report said.

“The Enacted Budget Financial Plan noted that the ultimate size of any permanent reductions would depend in part on the availability of unrestricted federal aid,” it said.

While the U.S. Congress has begun discussions on additional recovery legislation, no agreement has been reached as of the date of this update,” the report said.

“Therefore,” it adds, “DOB now expects to transmit a detailed aid-to-localities reduction plan to the Legislature later in the State’s FY [fiscal year] 2021.”

DOB’s mid-year budget financial plan projects the Empire State’s tax receipts have plummeted by $14.9 billion  — a $400 million increase from August’s projection of $14.5 billion — tied to revenue losses brought on by COVID-19.

State budget officials also predict a 15.3 percent drop in tax revenues compared to April’s projections.

The state has already “reduced spending” by $4.3 billion through September “in the absence of Federal funding” by freezing hiring, new contracts and pay raises.

The state is also temporarily holding back 20% of most payments to local governments and nonprofits, according to the report.

Cuomo has the legal authority to withhold or reduce spending as part of the budget agreement reached with the Legislature earlier this year.

The state courts have taken a $300 million hit, forcing the judiciary to lay off 46 of its oldest judges.

Local governments say they couldn’t bear additional cuts.

“The state’s budget gap continues to concern New York’s county governments that are on the front line of the COVID-19 public health crisis at the same time they have their own revenue shortfalls and face a 20% state reimbursement cut when the demand for programs like food stamps and heating assistance is on the rise across the state,” Stephen J. Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties told The Post.

“To be clear, the state’s 20% cuts are not lowering the cost of the programs provided by counties. They are simply shifting these costs to local taxpayers who will now have to pay more for these state-mandate health and human service programs,” he added.

Meanwhile, state budget watchdogs said Cuomo is rolling the dice by waiting to take further action to stem red ink.

“With less than half the fiscal year left, the governor continues to (literally) bank on his hopes for a Biden victory in the presidential election, coupled with a Democratic takeover of the U.S. Senate, said E.J. McMahon, a fiscal analyst with the Empire Center for Public Policy.

Assuming that happens, Cuomo (not without reason) expects to produce a big infusion of federal aid to cover the still-enormous hole in his current budget, plus a large portion of the gap for FY 2022,” he said.

But McMahon added, “What if President Trump is re-elected, or a President Biden has his state and local aid proposals thwarted by a still Republican-dominated Senate?”

He noted that Cuomo budget director Robert Mujica said without a federal infusion the state would have to impose deeper cuts that would have a “devastating” impact on schools, hospitals, police and fire departments and other critical services and force the state to raise taxes and debt that “many impact our competitiveness and weaken” New York’s ability to lead the national recovery from the pandemic.

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