For a budget address, Governor Cuomo's speech on Tuesday spent relatively little time on the nuts and bolts of the state's fiscal 2013 spending plan. Seeking to turn a symbolic page from last year's nasty budget fight, the governor argued that closing New York's $2 billion fiscal hole is a simple matter of eliminating waste and cancelling automatic budget increases. The bulk of the gov's talk was about his "reform agenda" of economic development, government streamlining, avoiding future pension obligations and teacher evaluations.

Not so fast, said advocates who deal in details.

The Hunger Action Network of New York State said it was "appalled that once again Governor Cuomo had taken money away from the poorest New Yorkers by seeking to further delay a promised 10 percent hike in the basic welfare grant." HANNY went on: "After postponing the previously approved 10 percent grant increase ($1 a day for a family of 3) in his first year, Cuomo now wants to only provide 5 percent this year and then 5 percent next year. The proposed delay will save the state a mere $6 million."

The Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies praised Cuomo for increasing funding for early childhood education, but took issue with the delayed welfare grant increase and his proposal to "eliminate Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) scheduled to take effect in 2012-13 for programs including Foster Care, Adoption, and Bridges to Health."

The Human Services Council welcomed parts of the budget but was troubled by cuts like the elimination of the Neighborhood Preservation Program, the Rural Preservation Program and "support for Settlement Houses and Supplemental Child Welfare funding used to help districts reduce child protective caseloads."

The Council earlier in the week released a report that documented the real impact of the funding cuts that, for the governor and legislature, are last year's news: Among its indicators, HSC points to 27,000 jobs lost; 13,000 summer youth employment slots eliminated and more than 385,000 fewer domestic violence clients assisted.

In other policy news:

  • The good news is that New York City's job market is faring a lot better than those in L.A. , Chicago or elsewhere in the U.S.: NYC has recovered around half the jobs lost in the recession, compared to the 25 percent of lost jobs that the national economy has regenerated. The bad news, says the NYC Independent Budget Office, is that the recovered jobs pay a lot less than those that they're replacing. During the downturn, the city lost Wall Street jobs paying an average salary north of $300K.

    IBO expects over the next two years that "15,000 jobs will be created in health services, where salaries average roughly $54,900 a year … Another 10,000 jobs are expected in education, where the average salary is nearly $52,600. …. [A]bout 7,000 jobs will be gained in social assistance, where annual salaries average just $27,800. … [F]ood service and drinking places will add 15,000 of the 19,600 jobs expected to be gained in leisure and hospitality over the next two years. But the average annual salary for food and bar staff is just $24,050—less than a third of the citywide average—although tips help increase the take home pay."

  • The New York City Housing Authority released a new restructuring plan last week that promises a new spirit of customer service and a more strategic approach to closing the enormous funding gaps that, thanks to federal penny pinching, NYCHA has suffered both in operating expenses and capital funds. Goals like expediting repairs and improving security won’t meet resistance. But some other proposals might. NYCHA plans to "phase in rent increases to households paying less than 30 percent of their income" and "encourage higher-income families to transition out of public housing," which could change the income mix that traditionally has been seen as a source of strength for the nation's oldest and largest public housing agency.

    NYCHA also plans to sign up for the federal Moving to Work program, which the agency considered doing in 1997 and dropped over resident objections. MTW worries some advocates because it could allow NYCHA to take money out of Section 8 and use it to shore up public housing—robbing Peter to pay Paul. In addition, MTW can grant waivers from key regulations. Under MTW, other housing agencies have weakened the cap on rent at 30 percent of income, instituted work requirements, implemented time limits and reduced resident participation. NYCHA also wants to join the Rental Assistance Demonstration, which would use a combination of federal and private funds to change traditional public housing into project-based Section 8 developments.

    (City Limits wrote about the role of a private consultant in shaping NYCHA's restructuring plan in our November/December magazine.)

  • In the wake of a deal on the living wage bill being considered by the City Council, there's renewed talk about a sick leave bill. To learn what scuttled the last attempt, re-read Neil deMause's article from December 2010.