Even as Governor Andrew Cuomo tries to do ever more to please the rightfully restive left, there is always a give and take. He will only go so far. He will invariably invent ways to disappoint.
The latest move was seemingly subtle: Tucked into page 368 of his executive budget proposal is an allocation for Title XX funds, also referred to as the Social Services Block Grant, a capped entitlement program from the federal government. Cuomo’s proposal states the funds will only be used for childcare services.
That sounds innocuous enough. The problem is that allocating the funds purely for childcare will mean an effective cut to senior services in the city, which have traditionally relied on Title XX money. The Department for the Aging estimates the transfer of funds would amount to a $17 million reduction.
In turn, the city would have to consider cutting 65 senior centers if this version of the budget is passed. Other services could suffer as well, like meals served to the elderly, planned social activities, eviction assistance, and healthcare help.
Lawmakers are holding rallies against the ultimately arbitrary and needless cuts. It’s unfair for advocates that childcare and senior needs are seemingly pitted against each other in a scenario reminiscent of Cuomo’s disconcerting love of forcing regions of the state to compete against one another for economic grants. In a state budget that will be north of $150 billion, the $17 million is not even one crumb.
Cuomo’s office says his administration is allocating $400 million in additional state funding to the city overall. He wants Mayor Bill de Blasio’s City Hall find a way to scrap some of the cash out of that pot to restore the senior cuts the state is imposing.
“We are directing Title XX funds to childcare while increasing total funding to New York City by $400 million,” said Freeman Klopott, a Cuomo spokesman.
But the state budget has other nasty surprises for New York City, as it often does — $50 million will be slashed from the city’s Medicaid funding unless City Hall comes up with a plan in the next five months to receive $100 million more in federal Medicaid dollars for preschool and school-supportive health services. Cuomo also wants to trim $11 million of state aid to the city Health Department. Another $65 million disappeared from the MTA’s budget thanks to a broken promise and a budgetary slight of hand.
It goes without saying that Cuomo has had a pathological obsession with undermining the mayor since he took office in 2014. If de Blasio has invited bullying through his own bumbling, Cuomo has continually upped the ante, screwing city residents for the sake of a game that is amusing to insiders but no one else. Yes, Cuomo is more skilled at wielding his vast influence than de Blasio. That doesn’t make him a better or more compassionate leader.
Inevitability, all this must fall into the (groan) 2020 maw, because Cuomo’s name will be on the list of potential candidates. Cuomo believes his liberal accomplishments in New York — same-sex marriage, a minimum wage hike, gun control legislation — will play on a national stage that his father, Mario, once hoped to grace. Maybe that will be the case.
But for every Cuomo action, there is an equal and opposite disappointment. His enabling of the Independent Democratic Conference. His austerity measures toward public schools. His failure to bring significant ethics reforms to Albany.
Framed against those, a $17 million cut to seniors is rather small potatoes. Perhaps, if Cuomo ever attempts a town hall in Des Moines, it will long be forgotten.