It was good to see an agreement on the 2012-13 New York state budget this week in advance of Sunday's budget deadline, but the plan comes with disappointments.
The $132.5 billion plan, which the state Legislature is voting on this week, increases spending by 2 percent. It does cut costs in some areas of state government but fails to go far enough.
The plan lacks important measures. For example, it provides little significant relief from state mandates on local government. It includes a state takeover of the growth in Medicaid costs, but the plan will make little difference for local government. Instead, the state should start taking over existing Medicaid costs from counties.
The budget also fails to provide local school districts with adequate aid. Some districts will be forced to enact deep cuts in staffing and programs as they aim to meet state-mandated program expenses and keep property-tax levy increases under a state-imposed cap. The state could have cut more spending in state agencies and moved money to education aid until state leaders come up with a better plan to reduce mandatory costs for schools.
The state's recent agreement to start a new pension tier for public employees will save some money for localities, but the Legislature mustn't stop there in its effort to reduce personnel costs.
On the positive side, the budget creates no new taxes or fees for most wage earners, although it does include a $1.9 billion tax increase on millionaires.
Regardless of the praise you may hear for the new budget, our high-taxation state is still fiscally challenged. The 2002-03 state budget totaled $89.6 billion. In 2008-09, it totaled $124.3 billion. Today, it's $132.5 billion. State spending has gone up 39 percent in 10 years. Legislators must reform their approach to spending.