Another Budget Crisis?

In a troubling development, the state missed an important budget deadline earlier this month when Governor Cuomo’s office failed to deliver a review of New York’s current budget along with tentative revenue projections for next year. Under budget reforms passed in 2007, the governor is supposed to deliver a mid-fiscal year budget report on Nov. 5. Legislative leaders follow-up with revenue projections of their own, and they and the governor sit down to hash out their differences. The idea is to create a more transparent, less rushed budget process.

Mr. Cuomo’s office said that turmoil in global markets has made the process much more complicated this year. That’s certainly plausible, but still, a missed deadline is a missed deadline. The mid-fiscal year review was established to ensure that the budget process is more transparent and rational than it has been in the past. So the missed deadline is a cause for concern.

Even more disturbing, there is chatter out of Albany about the prospect of upstate Republicans joining Democrats in an effort to renew the state’s so-called millionaire’s tax, which is due to expire on New Year’s Eve. The New York Post’s Fred Dicker reported this week that GOP state senators from outside the metropolitan area might be inclined to support a new millionaire’s tax—which Assembly Democrats already support—because there aren’t a whole lot of millionaires in their districts.

That sort of reasoning is dangerously parochial. True, not many people in the North Country, or the Southern Tier, or in western New York have to worry about a millionaire’s tax. But if the economy in these beleaguered regions is ever going to get better, the state as a whole has to shed its reputation as a high-tax, business-unfriendly enterprise. Scrapping the millionaire’s tax would go a long way toward achieving that goal.

New York faces another brutal budget season beginning in January. Complicating matters, the entire Legislature will be up for re-election in November. Lawmakers no doubt will be tempted to look for easy solutions to fill the state’s budget gap.

The governor, who understands what’s at stake here, must persuade lawmakers that a renewed millionaire’s tax would be counterproductive for all concerned. Another Budget Crisis?