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Forthcoming Stimulus Money Is Already Shaping New York State's Budgeting Process - Megan Zerez

HAYLEY ZHAO, HOST: New York City will received $23 billion dollars in federal covid funding, and lawmakers are debating how to spend the money.

ARCELIA MARTIN, HOST: But this year New York state is desperate for money. In total, it’s facing an estimated $50 billion deficit. The federal government has promised New York state and local governments some $23 billion dollars in funds. Still, as Megan Zerez reports, with the pandemic, budgeting has gotten even more complicated.

MEGAN ZEREZ, BYLINE: Here’s how New York’s budget process works normally.

JAMES PARROTT: The governor proposes an executive budget with, you know, revenue changes, spending detail ...

ZEREZ: That’s James Parrott. He researches economics and fiscal policy at the New School. He says the next step is for the budget to go to the legislature, where Cuomo, the Assembly and the State Senate fight it out.

PARROTT: And then there's a three way negotiation to resolve differences. And usually they go right down to the wire on March 31.

ZEREZ: But this year is different for a few key reasons. Reason number one:

SCOTT STRINGER: It's not just bringing back the economy. It's bringing back the economy different.

ZEREZ: That was New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer in last week’s virtual state Assembly hearing. New York lawmakers don’t just need to keep things like hospitals and schools running … they need to rebuild things too, like the entertainment industry.

Here’s James Parrott again.

PARROTT: The state also has to make some decisions about how to end the year for the current budget.

ZEREZ: The current budget meaning the fiscal year we’re in right now -- 2021. That’s reason number two: lawmakers are scrambling to balance two budgets at the same time -- this year’s and next years.

PARROTT: There was an $8 billion cut in local aid. And that is still part of the budget. But those cuts haven't been detailed yet.

ZEREZ: Those budget cuts might impact things like food assistance programs, government staffing or hospital funding. But what about that $23 billion in federal aid? That brings us to reason three. Here’s Scott Stringer again.

STRINGER: It is important to remember that this help will be temporary, and it should be used as such.

ZEREZ: The federal stimulus is “bandaid money.” And it can be hard to build a long term budget and hire people when that money isn’t going to be there year after year. And because the money is coming from the federal government, there are different rules for how it’s distributed. And there’s more. The federal government is proposing to split up the money so that some counties upstate will start off with more aid per resident compared to, say, New York City. But there aren’t hard borders between counties … as we’re seeing with the vaccine rollout.

CBS NY: One vaccination site is changing its policy tonight after out of towners filled up appointment sheets.

ZEREZ: So one county’s residents might use another county’s medical resources when their own are scarce. The next step in the process is a public hearing that’ll be held next week on the 23rd. But that’s just the start of it: The money from the federal government still needs to make it through the US Senate in Washington.

ZEREZ: Megan Zerez, Uptown Radio.

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