New York Needs to Lose 4 Billion Pounds

November 11, 2009 Updated: November 11, 2009

When you are 4 billion pounds over weight, you know it’s time to rethink your diet. Seems pretty obvious, right? Unfortunately many lawmakers in Albany don’t get it.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has estimated that there will be a $4.1 billion budget gap in state finances, and Gov. David Paterson is predicting economic fallout if nothing is done by Christmas. Meanwhile state lawmakers are dragging their feet and falling under the sway of unions that selfishly don’t want cuts to their sectors.

The most clear way forward is Paterson’s bold two-year plan that would reduce the state deficit by $5 billion. While the plan does sadly include a $480 million cut from school districts and a $287 million cut from Medicaid, it’s the only option if the great state of New York doesn’t want to break the scale with its fat butt.

It’s true that politics are always a dreary mess. But, at a time when the federal government is spending hundreds of billions on stimulus projects courtesy of debt sold to China and is now contemplating spending more than a trillion on healthcare, words of fiscal responsibility from politicians’ mouths ring clear and true.

Mike Elmendorf, New York State director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), has said: “New York faces a very real and very dire fiscal crisis. It is a crisis of over-spending, not revenue, and certainly not under-taxation, brought on by years of unsustainable spending that neither state government nor its taxpayers could afford.”

No surprise that Elmendorf has endorsed Paterson’s plan, which seeks to make cuts to New York’s public spending without raising New York’s already high taxes.

New York spends twice the national average per capita on Medicaid and nearly $6,000 more than the national average per capita on education. As a result, New York’s taxes are “perennially ranked among the heaviest in the country,” according to the Empire Center for New York State Policy.

Just consider for yourself that the state gets a huge chunk of its money from taxing New York’s financial industry, which has suffered tremendously over the last year.

An ominous message on the governor’s web page reads: “The financial services industry as a whole remains in the midst of a fundamental restructuring, which will continue to depress state tax collections. Some Wall Street firms have disappeared altogether during the financial crisis and won't be paying any bonuses at all.”

Sure, maybe the investment bankers and traders deserved it, but that also means that a big chunk of their change won’t be going to pay for schools and healthcare. Thus, I have to wonder what the politicians dragging their feet in Albany are thinking; certainly they're not thinking about the well-being of the state.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Carl Kruger is quoted in the New York Times saying that cutting education “is never the answer.” What most newspapers didn’t report, however, is that Kruger had three jelly donuts and a rasher of bacon stuffed in his briefcase at the time (figuratively of course).

New York needs to cut the fat, and do it now. That is the only answer.