With the Trump Administration and both houses of Congress planning to make major budget cuts next year, New York State is bracing for uncertainty as the state develops its budget by April 1st for 2017-2018. Federal spending plans currently in place only go through April, so the spending cuts could come in the new state fiscal year. One of the big changes and cuts could come if Medicaid is turned into a block grant with less money.
In addition, the state faces the expiration of its “millionaires tax” which, if not extended, would result in the loss of major revenues Federal budget cuts will put even greater pressure on extending the millionaires tax. Current estimates are that the state has a budget deficit going into the new fiscal year if the millionaires tax expires at the end of 2017. If it is extended there will be more money unless federal budget cuts open up another hole. There is going to be pressure on the state to make up for some of the federal cuts but the state’s tax cap limits spending increases.
The battle over the millionaires tax will be a central issue in the coming state legislative session. The Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) is playing a leading role in arguing to extend the tax and other revenue producing measures.
Here is some other news I have been paying close attention to…
The State Office for the Aging has issued a request for applications for the NORC program (Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities). It was released on December 9 and is due in early March. This is essentially a re-bidding of the existing program for both high rise traditional NORCs and Neighborhood NORCs. Preference is given to existing NORCs though some new ones could be funded.
The State Public Service Commission (PSC) at its December 15 meeting voted to prohibit ESCOs from service low-income consumers. Energy service companies that try to market themselves as lower cost than regular utilities have proven to charge more according to Commission staff. The prohibition allows the companies to be exempted if they prove they will save the customer money but the PSC doesn’t want low income households especially those getting HEAP (heating aid) to be using public money to pay inflated bills.
Congressman Sam Johnson, the chair of a House of Representatives subcommittee with authority over Social Security has a new bill that would raise the retirement age to 69 and cut benefits for most beneficiaries with a slight increase for the low income. Others could see cuts of more than 15%. He says his bill is just to get people talking but it’s clear that he and other Republicans are interested in cuts rather than a balanced approach that increases revenues, especially by raising the earnings cap above $118,000.
Congressman Paul Tonko of the Capital District area told senior advocates at a meeting of the Capital District Alliance for Retired Americans (CDARA) on Tuesday that he expects Republicans in Congress to push for major cuts in the budget including in Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. He urged those present to keep the pressure on, including sending letters to him and others who support them because they need to know that there is a strong outpouring of opposition that they can cite in fighting the proposed cuts. The national ARA is assailing Paul Ryan’s Medicare “premium support” plan as “Couponcare.”
I appeared on Capital Tonight with Liz Benjamin on December 15 to discuss possible Medicare vouchers. Here is the link to the video of that show