Every year, spending in certain segments of the New York state budget automatically increases a set amount — regardless of need, program efficiency, or the current level of inflation. So, for example, this year's budget includes an increase in spending on education and Medicare of 13 percent — even though the state is cash-strapped and inflation is actually closer to 2 percent. In an editorial printed in several state newspapers today, Governor Andrew Cuomo calls this system a "sham," and vowed to take it on.
Wouldn't you like your salary or savings account to be based on a formula that gave you a 13 percent increase even though inflation was under 2 percent? The world doesn't work that way — except in Albany ... The rate of increase is rarely discussed. The 13 percent increase this year is close to a state secret. I spoke with numerous experienced Albany hands who had no idea the programs increased 13 percent.
In Albany speak, "deficit" means the amount needed to fund the 13 percent increase (as opposed to a normal rate of increase). For example, if one assumed these programs would increase at the rate of inflation (instead of 13 percent) the $10 billion deficit is really a $1 billion deficit. A "cut" is then defined as anything less than a 13 percent increase. By forcing the debate to start with such a large hike, the final budget ends up spending much more than the year before — even after the Governor attempts "cuts." For example, what is called a 7 percent cut in spending is actually a 6 percent increase over the prior year.
The regulations that call for these high annual budget boosts are called "permanent law," that is separate from the budget bills which are built separately every year. "This 'permanent law' is really the way the 'permanent government' of lobbyists, special interests and political friends manipulates the entire system and misleads the public in the process," Cuomo writes. "There is no such thing as 'permanent' laws, and they must all be reviewed and replaced when necessary."
Sheldon Silver, the assembly speaker who is an advocate for these permanent laws (part of what is called "current services budgeting"), had no comment when asked what he thought of the governor's use of the word sham to describe them.
Gov on 'deficit' deceit [NYP]