PLATTSBURGH — Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy was here Monday to garner support for Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget, which aims to eliminate the projected $10 billion shortfall without tax increases or borrowing.
"There are no easy answers for the conditions we're in in New York state," Duffy told community leaders gathered at the West Side Ballroom.
He said one of the best moves Cuomo has made is to expose formulas that automatically increase annual Medicaid and education spending. Spending would have increased 13.2 percent and 13.1 percent, respectively, in 2010-11 under the current formulas.
"The governor has put a light on in a very dark room that is Albany budgeting," Duffy said during a press conference after his presentation.
He said that when special-interest groups complain about 2-percent cuts in funding, what they are really complaining about is an 11-percent increase in aid instead of 13 percent.
"One thing we have to admit in New York state is we have a spending addiction," Duffy said.
Under Cuomo's plan, future Medicaid increases would be tied to the 10-year rolling average of the medical-care component of the Consumer Price Index, currently 4 percent.
School-aid growth in future years would be tied to a new Gap Elimination Adjustment formula, created by permanent law that limits spending growth based on growth in personal income, currently also 4 percent.
Duffy said the state doesn't get results for its spending. Although it is ranked first in education spending, it is ranked 34th nationally in testing results.
It also ranks first in Medicaid spending and economic-development spending, yet is 21st in health-care results and 50th for friendliness to business.
"If we're No. 1 in this spending, we should be No. 1 in results, and we're not," Duffy said.
Cuomo's budget would establish 10 Regional Economic Development Councils, chaired by Duffy, one-stop shops for all state-supported economic-development and business-assistance programs.
The spending plan would make $130 million available for competitively determined economic-development programs put forth by the Regional Councils.
The budget would cut state operation costs 10 percent, five times what has been asked of other municipalities. The needed $450 million in savings could be achieved through wage and benefit concessions, pension adjustments and other negotiated reductions.
The last resort would be 9,800 job reductions in the state workforce.
Cuomo has task forces looking at correction and other state facilities for possible closure.
The governor would put aside $10 million for each community affected by a state-ordered closure. That money would be used to spur sustainable economic development.
Duffy said that because the state spends too much, it taxes too much. New Yorkers face a tax burden that's 66 percent above the national average and property-tax bills that are 96 percent higher than the national average.
That has led to a cycle where businesses, leave then people leave because there are no jobs, followed by less revenue for the state, which leads to tax increases, which makes more businesses leave.
Duffy said 2 million people have left the state in the last decade.
City of Plattsburgh Mayor Donald Kasprzak, a Republican, said he fully supports Cuomo and Duffy's approach to the nearly $10 billion deficit the state faces.
"As mayor, I have been dealing with these same issues for more than four years, and I can only hope that Gov. Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Duffy have the conviction and strength to deal with the personal attacks that are going to be coming from the special interests," he said.
"I am proud of the fact that, despite the challenges, the City of Plattsburgh is in a much better financial position than it was in 2006."
Plattsburgh Town Supervisor Bernie Bassett, a Democrat, said he was pleased Duffy traveled to Plattsburgh to share the budget message.
"He is making us all a partner in solving this problem. He is showing us there is an understanding of the local issues."
Bassett said it was also good to hear that sticking to the plan this year would reduce future cuts and freezes.
North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas said Duffy's visit was one of the most significant events the chamber had hosted in some time, given the deficit crisis. He said New York finally has a team in Albany fighting to help with job creation.
Douglas said the economic-development specialists and job creators of the state support Cuomo's budget. It is good to see recognition of the different circumstances each part of the state has in those areas, he added.
"New York is a patchwork of a number of economic regions, each with unique challenges and unique resources. We're very excited this governor is embracing this idea that has been evident for some time."
The chamber has long worked to create a united economic-development front across a multi-county area. It also is involved in strategic initiatives such as the Quebec-New York Corridor and Tech Valley.
Duffy said the governor realizes the special-interest groups are going to fight back, including playing up the effect on schoolchildren and people with health-care needs, "when really there are so many ways to achieve these savings without touching one child or one patient."
He said that if the stand isn't made now, it is unlikely to happen in the future.
"A big part of this is asking for your support."
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