ALBANY, N.Y. — When Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday unveils his budget proposal, all eyes will be on an important number: How much money does the state have in a surplus?
The governor says New York will run in the black thanks to keeping spending at two percent, and he's expecting a $2 billion surplus in the coming years without broad-based spending cuts.
"The short answer is no there will not be cuts, right? We spent two percent more this year and education funding went up about five percent," said Gov. Cuomo, D-New York, on Dec. 16.
Cuomo plans to use that extra money to fund $2.2 billion in proposed tax cuts for businesses and a rebate program aimed at freezing property tax increases. The governor insists the state can afford it.
"If our spending only goes up two percent, we believe by the current projections we can afford two billion dollars in tax benefits, especially two billion dollars that are designed to grow the economy because then you get more revenues."
But independent budget analysts see a challenge for Cuomo in reaching that surplus. He'll have to find other areas of the state budget that will either be kept flat or see a spending reduction.
"It will be a big challenge. The governor is going to have to pull out all the stops to try to keep the lid on spending with the Legislature tending to add spending and an election year coming up. That is going to be a big challenge," said Betsy Lynam, Citizens Budget Commission.
The Citizens Budget Commission ran the numbers. They say it is difficult, but not impossible, to find areas other to cap spending in order to afford both the tax cuts and planned increases in education and health care.
"What it amounts to when you do the math is a $5 billion reduction in planned spending that has to come out of every other category apart from school aid and Medicaid," Lynam said.
EJ McMahon of the Empire Center says the governor's math broadly adds up, but more details are going to be needed.
"The question is what spending levels does the governor change? What spending areas get reduced spending so to speak in order to get to two percent?" asked EJ McMahon.
There could be more factors, including help from the federal government on the state Medicaid program, one of the costliest in the country.
"You're left with a small number of areas that you'll have to take a lot more money out of unless something is occurring involving federal reimbursement of Medicaid that the governor hasn't explained yet but will explain tomorrow," McMahon said.
In a related development, Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Monday agreed on how to spending $163 million in money stemming from a JP Morgan settlement. Schneiderman will control half for a competitive request for proposals program and other half will be included in the budget for housing relief.