Stateline Story

Would More Power for Governor Help NY Budget?

New York state's main checking account is stuck in the red, raising the possibility that the state will once again have to delay payments at the end of the month. Meanwhile, a budget stalemate between legislators and Governor David Paterson continues in Albany. The budget is 78 days overdue and counting. Worse, the protracted budget fight this year is hardly a new phenomenon in New York.

One way to avoid such budget crises in the future would be to give New York's governor the power to make across-the-board spending cuts, a power enjoyed by governors in many other states, concluded a report ( PDF ) from The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government released Thursday (June 17).

Rockefeller researchers compared the governor's budget-cutting power in New York to Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio and Oregon.

The report, one in a series requested by Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch that looks at potential budget reforms, notes that the Empire State's governor has a lot of power to propose and draft a budget. But once the ink is dry, New York's governor can only hold back funding for the operating expenses of state agencies, which amounts to only a quarter of state spending. Plus, the governor's ability to make those cuts is only based on an informal agreement with the Legislature.

The Rockefeller report urged the state to give more power to the governor and to make it more explicit, possibly with a constitutional amendment.

"Extending such authority beyond agency operations would enhance the state's ability to deal effectively with coming budget gaps and avoid further shifting of current costs into the future," said Robert Ward, the institute's deputy director, in a statement