ALBANY, N.Y. (WWNY) - Governor Andrew Cuomo called on the incoming Biden administration Tuesday to provide $15 billion to New York State government, saying “we’re asking for fairness.”
The governor warned in his annual budget message that the state could face higher taxes, cuts in funding to schools and local governments and borrowing that will “give our children debt that they would have to pay as our legacy.”
Cuomo has insisted for years that the federal government under President Trump short-changed and “assaulted” the state’s finances.
He said the Biden administration has a responsibility to help repair the financial damage done to the state, by providing $15 billion out of the $1.9 trillion in COVID relief President Biden is expected to seek.
“Considering what we went through, I believe it’s a modest request.”
Cuomo has said the state’s budget gap is $15 billion, though Tuesday he said the state faces a $21 billion “shortfall in revenue” this year and next year.
Others have said the state’s budget gap appears to be much smaller, in the range of $4 billion.
Whatever the exact number. the state has lost billions in taxes because of COVID-19, which forced businesses to close or severely curtail operations.
And the state has been forced to spend to combat the virus.
“Now, the bill for the battle has come due,” Cuomo said Tuesday.
He said that if the federal government delivers only $6 billion in COVID relief - what he called the “worst case” - New York could be forced to raise income taxes to the highest in the nation, while cutting $2 billion from school aid, $600 million from Medicaid and deep cuts to local government funding.
On the other hand, if the Biden administration provides $15 billion, Cuomo said it will allow the state to fully fund labor agreements it has; restore 5 percent funding reductions the state imposed; fund a middle class tax cut; provide for an increase in education funding.
Cuomo said if Washington does not supply the $15 billion, he’ll sue.
“I cannot in good faith represent the people of this state and know that they are being harmed, and know that they are being treated unfairly, and not do everything within my power to try to do what is right,” he said.
Cuomo continued his long-running campaign against a decision by the Trump administration to limit the deductibility of certain state and local taxes from New Yorkers’ federal taxes. Tuesday, Cuomo called it “one of the single worst federal actions to befall the state of New York.”
And the governor reiterated plans to legalize marijuana and online sports betting in the coming year, which together are expected to generate close to a billion dollars in revenue.
Tuesday, Cuomo did not advocate for, or speak strongly against, proposals to raise taxes on New York’s millionaires and billionaires, proposals which have significant support in the Democrat-dominated state legislature. The governor has not been an advocate of a “millionaires tax,” but faces a political problem: if the state legislature pushes through such a tax, and Governor Cuomo vetoes it, Democrats have enough votes to override Cuomo’s veto.
Reaction from Republicans was unenthusiastic.
Will Barclay of Pulaski, who leads the Republican minority in the state assembly, said in a statement that Cuomo delivered “regurgitated rhetoric that we’ve heard over and over, punctuated by a desperate plea to the federal government for a $15 billion bailout.”
“Federal help is necessary, and I have advocated for it. But threatening court action unless those resources are provided is hardly a reliable strategy, nor does it qualify as responsible budgeting.”