An important agenda item for the final week of the New York State legislative session will be whether and how to extend the law, expiring July 1, that permits police, firefighters and other unionized law enforcement officials to resolve labor contract impasses through binding arbitration. Rather than renewing the statute as a matter of routine, as has occurred for decades, State leaders should amend the statute to address its key weakness: inadequate consideration of the fiscal condition of State and local governments.
In 2011 per pupil education spending nationwide fell 0.4%. In New York, however, per pupil spending increased 2.5% from $18,618 to $19,076, fully 81% above the national average and placing it at the top of the spending list for all 50 states.
These two vital questions about New York City’s capital budget are not being addressed by the mayoral candidates. Although the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy served as a sharp reminder of the importance of public infrastructure and long-term capital planning, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Ten-Year Capital Strategy, a plan for $54 billion in infrastructure investments, has received little attention since its release a few weeks ago with the Executive Budget.
Over the weekend the State Division of the Budget released the financial plan report accompanying the enacted fiscal year 2014 budget. The financial plan includes details of the budget for the current fiscal year and its implications for the next three fiscal years through March 31, 2017. The report tells a troubling story.
On February 12th the Spending and Government Efficiency Commission, or “SAGE” Commission, submitted its final report to Governor Andrew Cuomo. With most state leaders and observers focused on budget negotiations, this comprehensive report on streamlining and modernizing State government was largely overlooked. But it deserves attention, and its many worthwhile recommendations should be implemented.
Last night the state aid allocations for school districts were released just in time for the State Senate to vote on the budget. The final agreement allocates $20.8 billion, approximately $7,700 per student, in formula-based school aid for school year 2014. This represents an increase of $937 million, or 4.7%, over school year 2013.
New York is on track to pass an on-time budget that appears to limit state-funded spending to 2% growth for the 3rd consecutive year. That is good news for New Yorkers.
However, while the details are still emerging, one proposal is particularly disappointing.
Competitive grants are an important element in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s approach to state aid for education. The new approach began on a small scale last year, and a review of the experience in the first year suggests the proposed expansion may be premature.
On February 13th, lawmakers in the New York State Assembly had a busy day: they introduced eight bills enhancing the pension benefits of public employees and retirees. These bills would add at least $1.35 billion in costs to State and local employers.