My colleague Tom Precious reports:
Schumer wants to use federal bailout money intended to help the economy to, among other things, replace state school aid that Paterson wants to cut from the state budget ...
Paterson suggested the education money, along with what Schumer last week said could be $5 billion for the state’s Medicaid health insurance program, could reduce the need for some of the fiscal steps he recently proposed to close the state’s deficit, including some of the more than $4 billion in unpopular tax and fee increases ...
With the expected flood of money from Washington, Paterson stuck to his mantra that the state still needs to reform its spending ways — a prospect that likely will prove increasingly elusive as the cash from the federal government is drawn down to assist the state ...
If the state actually receives the amounts Schumer is discussing, lawmakers and special interest groups would have considerable ammunition to oppose Paterson’s plans to cut spending and raise taxes ...
Paterson has talked of changing a mind-set about how state budgets can grow each year beyond the revenues to sustain the spending. While the federal aid may help push off some of the more painful cuts the governor has proposed, it probably will do little to further his quest for meaningful spending reforms.
Paterson, on one hand, is all for bailout aid, as it would allow him to ease off on some of the politically unpopular tax increases and spending cuts in his proposed budget. But it sounds like he also realizes that the federal money will embolden the status quo folks he is fighting with.
Let's keep two things in mind. New York spends more on education than any state in the nation by most accounts. And the cuts Paterson has proposed would leave districts with more state aid than they had two years ago. He's simply proposing a partial roll back of this year's record increase in school aid.
The use of federal dollars to replace lost state school aid strikes me as pork barrel politics.
I fail to see how using federal money intended to promote economic recovery to instead allow schools to continue their free-spending ways helps the economy.
You want to give money to the states for, say, extended unemployment benefits that help people pay their bills, fine. But giving it to school bureaucrats keep spending in the style they're accustomed to? Ah, not so fine.
If this doesn't help the economy, what does it help? Schumer's re-election campaign, for one.
He scores points with politicians and school boards around the state, as the federal aid would allow them to sidestep making some of the tough decisions that the state's $15.4 billion deficit now demands. That provides him IOUs for his next re-election campaign. This misuse of funds would also give him an opportunity to portray himself as a friend of education and homeowners who pay property taxes to support schools on the local level.
I can see the TV ads now, can't you?
"When the state budget deficit threatened our schools, Chuck Schumer found the money to save Little Johnnie's school ... "
Ever see a White Knight with a microphone in his hand? Just wait.
We don't need to play a shell game, shifting taxpayer money around like this. In the end, it's all our money, regardless of the address of the tax man who collects it.
Moreover, we need to use the state budget crisis to bring some fiscal discipline to spending. Uncle Sam's money - and it's really ours, remember - shouldn't be used to let Albany off the hook. It only postpones the inevitable.