NEW York Gov. Mario Cuomo (D) is getting high marks here both
for the ambitious scope of his new proposals to revitalize New York
City and for the message they send of his commitment to the city's
His package includes a number of public-works projects aimed at
producing jobs and streamlining transportation in and out of the
city by everything from high-speed ferries to light-rail links
between local airports.
The total cost has been pegged at more than $7 billion, most of
which would have to come from the private sector. Many New Yorkers
question whether any of the projects will really get off the ground.
"The most important thing the proposals do is boost confidence
in the city," says Ronald Shelp, president of the New York City
Partnership, a group of about 200 business and civic leaders.
"People have been saying that there's no hope.... It's much
better if they're arguing about whether this or that project will
work," he says.
One key proposal, long sought by city officials, would gradually
shift the local share of Medicaid costs to the state in exchange
for some portion of city and county tax revenue. New York is one of
only a handful of states that require cities to pay part of the
nonfederal share of the Medicaid bill. The tab for the Big Apple is
now $1.8 billion a year.
Several of Governor Cuomo's proposals would eliminate
duplication in city and state services and revamp laws that limit
productivity. New York University economist Richard Netzer
considers these one of the strongest parts of Cuomo's program.
"There's been a lot of detailed work done to think things
through," he says. "This is not just grandstanding."
These are days when cities are getting little help from either
Washington or their state capitals. New York State itself struggled
to make cuts last summer to close an estimated $6 billion budget
Just last week the state's chief judge sued the state, charging
that state funding is insufficient to operate the court system.
Big cities vs. suburbs
Few of the new Cuomo proposals include state money. Yet many
require legislative approval that may be hard to come by. The
proportion of legislators from the suburbs is growing in New York
as elsewhere and, with it, resistance to anything that might smack
of an urban bailout.
Local-state fiscal tensions seem to be heightening rather than
easing nationally, says Henry Coleman, who directs fiscal research
at the Advisory Committee on Intergovernmental Relations. Also, in
New York's case, Cuomo, a Democrat, must get his plan through a
Republican-controlled Senate. …