My quick take on the $1.6 billion-deficit elimination plan rubber-stamped by the State Legislature:
Reform-Reschwarm: The deal was hammered out by Three Men In A Room, who then summoned our $200-million-a-year Legislature to ratify the agreement with no meaningful review or debate. Which is, sadly,par for the course.
No structural reform: Spending cuts account for only 23 percent of the package. The balance comes from tax increases and raiding the coffers of state authorities for one-shot infusions of cash. The plan does very little to address the structural problems of the state budget.
SUNY students pay the price: The state will lay claim to 90 percent of SUNY tuition hikes that took effect this semester. That means this school year and next, students will kick in $184 million to help run state government, an average of $837 per student.
The SUNY schools in Western New York -- UB, Buff State, Fredonia, Geneseo and Alfred -- account for a quarter of enrollment statewide. That means our students are being forced to pitch in some $46 million, for which they'll get nothing in return, save for pride in knowing state employees enjoy some of the fattest pensions in the nation.
The mother of one-shots: The state is laying claim to a whopping $476 million in New York Power Authority funds. That accounts for almost one-third of the $1.6 billion plan.
Some $261 million of it comes from the authority's cash reserves, money generated by operating profits at the authority's power plants. Of course, most of the profits -- nearly two-thirds last year -- were generated at the hydropower plant in Lewiston and should have stayed in WNY before it ever made its way to NYPA's coffers.
The balance of the money the state has siphoned off to fund the deficit-elimination bill -- $215 million -- had been reserved to pay the federal government to take radioactive waste off its hands from two nuclear power plants it sold about a decade ago. The state has agreed to return the money if and when the feds finally take the radioactive waste off NYPA's hands.
Legislature holds itself harmless: There are no cuts in the operating budget of the Senate and Assembly. Pain and suffering is for others, I guess.
Who voted for this: The vote went almost entirely along party lines. The Democrats in the local delegation who voted "yes" include Schimminger, Hoyt, DelMonte, Gabryszak, Parment and Peoples (Schroeder was excused from the vote) in the Assembly and Stachowski and Thompson in the Senate.
No Republicans from the local delegation voted "yes" and GOP lawmakers are hootin' and hollerin' about the deal. But rest assured, if it had been Dean Skelos, not Malcom Smith, who had cut the deal, most of them would have fallen in line.
If all this doesn't depress you enough, there are more details in this press release from the governor's office.