By Tom Precious
ALBANY -- The Cuomo admininistration wasted no time in taking a victory lap for provisions it got through in the new state budget.
Besides the various and usual items Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been talking about publicly for weeks, a senior Cuomo admininstration official noted with some delight that legislative efforts to give the governor less control over economic development spending was not part of the final budget.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that items like state incentives for "innovation hot spots'' around the state, which Cuomo proposed in January but were not included in the Assembly and Senate one-house budget bills earlier this month, did end up in the enacted budget given final passage by teh Assembly at 11:59pm Thursday.
"The whole program that we laid out in the State of the State we got,'' the senior official said in a meeting with a few reporters, including The Buffalo News, in his Capitol office Thursday.
The official sought to beat back various criticisms about the budget, whether a provision giving taxpayer subsidies to employers of certain teenage workers to help them cover the costs associated with a minimum wage increase or big tax hikes on wealthy people down the fiscal road. [As for that minimum wage tax credit, the official said he knew of no specific corporations that pushed the idea and said it was the work of the governor's office and Senate negotiators; earlier in the day Thursday, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said he did not like the idea, but agreed to it as a compromise to get a minimum wage hike through.]
Critics have also complained about a program to give $350 checks to taxpayers with at least one child and household incomes of between $40,000 and $300,000. The program will not begin until the fall of 2014 -- just before election day for the governor and lawmakers -- in a move that fiscal watchdogs have said gives Albany's elected officials a handy political calling card to use with voters.
The Cuomo official said the matter of timing about when the checks would go out in 2014 was never a topic in closed-door talks between the administration and legislative leaders. "When you state it in the context of a campaign, obviously that's not what it's about, but (it's about) giving the middle class a tax cut,'' the official said.
The official stressed the importance of the budget getting adopted on time for the third year in a row, something not accomplished in three decades. "It was the symbol of dysfunction,'' the official said of the years of late state budgets, sometimes into August. "And don't underestimate that. It was the longest running play for 20 years. It's what everyone knew about their state government ... and it was a window through which they saw their state government and it exposed the ongoing gridlock and fighting and fingerpointing.''