Governor Has Plenty to Boast About, But Verdict Still Out on Fiscal Record

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has plenty to boast about after six months in office, but he’ll have to wait at least a few more months for a verdict on his fiscal record.

Questions remain on the level of savings that will be wrung out of Medicaid, how effective the property tax cap will be and whether revenues might again fall short of projections, a panel of past gubernatorial and legislative advisers cautioned yesterday.

“The fact that there are so many uncertainties going in the future on this budget is probably like any other budget that we’ve had,” said John Cahill, former secretary to Gov. George Pataki. “It has allowed the governor to move forward on his agenda and achieve these other accomplishments, but the reality is what does it mean to get property tax relief without what people consider real mandate relief? What are the consequences of the Medicaid budget cuts? We really don’t know that yet.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Cuomo has had a very successful so far, but experts aren't ready to weigh in on his fiscal record. Flickr/Patja

Cahill was among five former key Albany advisers on a panel hosted by City Hall, Baruch College and REBNY to evaluate the 2011 legislative session.

Despite the fiscal uncertainties, the panelists agreed Cuomo’s first six months in office were impressive and perhaps historic.

Charles O’Byrne, former secretary to Gov. David Paterson, said the accomplishments went far beyond the legacy-defining passage of same-sex marriage. On the budget, which was unusual for getting passed on time and with no spending increases, he said Cuomo also turned Albany culture on its head by planning expenditures two years out and eliminating built-in spending increases.

“It’s only six months, and it is too early to write history, but it is historic to be making those kinds of changes,” O’Byrne said. “I think it presages a really important cultural shift that could bring us back to a way of looking at government as one that works.”

But looking ahead, panelists cited several reasons why the honeymoon may not last.

Lawmakers receptive to the governor’s direct outreach and legislative leaders eager to compromise with a popular first-term governor will turn their focus to defending themselves in the 2012 elections, they said. Advocates who signed on to the Medicaid Redesign Team or another task force may hesitate if the chance comes up again.

“I don’t think next year you’re going to have the Ken Raskes of the world so willing to go along with, ‘Well, we’ll decide the cuts later,’ ” Cahill said, referring to the president of Greater New York Hospital Association. “The Assembly will fight much harder, as will the Senate, that we’re going to know now. It’s going to be a different kind of budget year next year.”

Read the full post at The Capitol.


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