Lt. Gov. Talks Budget At UC
Utica, NY (WIBX) - "We're at a cross road and the time to act is now" ... That's the message Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy delivered during an appearance at Utica College to gather support for Governor Andrew Cuomo's tough budget proposal that aims to reduce the state's nearly $10 billion deficit.
Duffy stressed that New York State is broke and these tough cuts and changes are inevitable. "The budget is focused on getting spending under control and one of the reasons we do not have a healthy economy in New York State is, I think the spending has been so out of control for so long that businesses leave. They go to state's that are more economically viable, they go to Texas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, they go off-shore so what Governor Cuomo is trying to do is to put a stake in the ground here. And, the only way we can get on the road to recovery is to make some decisions now and curtail the spending," he said.
Duffy spoke for nearly an hour in UC's Economic Crime and Justice Building Auditorium this afternoon using a power point presentation highlighting many of the state's woes followed by recovery proposals. Duffy said the budget proposal is up for negotiations saying, "Governor Cuomo and the legislatures will have negotiations--we'll all negotiate this." He said however that the key issue is that the state can not print any more money.
Duffy says legislatures have to keep in mind as they negotiate on the budget that if they want something back in--something else has to come out. He said Cuomo is meeting with leaders on both sides of the aisle to create an atmosphere of team work as they work to fix the budget deficit.
Duffy warned about special interest groups saying, "But as you know, what's going to happen is the legislative body is going to get lobbied, this is what happens, all the special interests will come and if people are only concerned about getting reelected and keeping certain support, we're going to be in this mess for decades to come." The former Mayor of Rochester selected by Cuomo last year to help lead the state to financial recovery compared the budget process to a marriage saying, "life is about negotiations."
Duffy was asked about the governor's plans to force the Oneida Indian Nation to pay back taxes on cigarette sales and the elimination of the policy to support local governments when they've lost tax revenue and he said, "At this point I could not make any pledges on behalf of the governor for any restoration of revenue at this time, I think the issue is that we have to get our spending under control." He said the state has to turn the corner financially before they take up the issue of any revenue restoration.
Concerning the collection of cigarette taxes from the Nation Duffy said, "The governor has been very clear about the responsibility to collect taxes, he's never backed off on that. He does and I do, have great respect for our Native Americans and what they provide in terms of economic vitality but, this is an issue he was clear about as Attorney General and clear about as Governor and our goal is this; Not to lose those relationships because they are very, very important but to create a sense of equity and fairness and that's what the governor is trying to do."
Cuomo who called the state "functionally bankrupt" during the release of the state budget last week is looking to reduce school aid by $2.85 billion, cut the Medicaid program by $2.85 billion and eliminate the annual built in funding increases for these two major institutions. Duffy says this year the built in annual increase is 13 percent. Duffy sarcastically asked the audience at UC if anyone in the room ever saw a 13 percent increase of their income.
Other cuts outlined in Cuomo's budget include a 10 percent reduction in aid to public colleges and universities, and state agency spending. Also, state workers are threatened with massive layoffs if unions don't agree to a proposed $450 million budget reduction.