In the face of what appears to be another major mid-year budget gap, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo of New York released a letter yesterday to legislative leaders outlining his proposed budget reforms.
The letter was sent in response to a letter to Gov. Cuomo earlier this month by Senate Majority Leader Ralph Marino, R-Muttontown, calling for budget reforms.
The letter was released against the backdrop of bleak fiscal news -- the state may face a mid-year budget gap of almost $1 billion, according to various published reports and sources in Albany.
Gov. Cuomo's letter was addressed to Mr. Marino and said he agreed with the "thesis" of Mr. Marino's letter on budget reform, but added that a package of budget reforms he is submitting would "offer even greater assurance that the failures of the past are not repeated." He described some of Mr. Marino's proposals as being "weaker" than those contained in his own package.
The governor's proposals include: changing the start of the state's fiscal year to July 1 from April 1; making public state agency budget requests; releasing documents that outline the legislative budget; creating an informal panel of "experts" to review executive and legislative revenue forecasts; and starting a public budget certification process.
A number of the budget reform proposals contained in a slew of bills Gov. Cuomo sent with the letter have been previously proposed by lawmakers.
Steven Greenberg, a spokesman for the Assembly, said his office just received the governor's missive. But the issue of budget reform is nothing new, he added. House Speaker Mel Miller, D-Brooklyn, "has been pushing for fiscal reform for four years. He has been proposing that we change the beginning of the fiscal year to July 1."
John McArdle, a spokesman for Sen. Marino said, "we had called for reform before."
Meanwhile, the state's budget crisis appears to be getting worse. Based on published reports and Gov. Cuomo's own estimates, the state could face a budget gap that could reach $1 billion in its roughly $29 billion budget for fiscal 1992.
This week the New York Daily News reported Gov. Cuomo told the paper's editorial board that the budget gap could rech $1 billion. And yesterday, The New York Times quoted Cuomo adminstration officials as saying the gap could reach between $500 million and $800 million.
At a press conference yesterday, however, Gov. Cuomo said he did not have the exact numbers and declined to speculate until the budget division releases its projections. The state's budget division is expected to release the projected gap figures on Oct. 30.
A spokesman for the budget division said, "We have not given a budget gap range to the governor."
Around this time last year, the state faced a budget gap of almost $900 million, and the state Legislature was called into an emergency session. Gov. Cuomo said yesterday that if the budget problem is serious enough, lawmakers would probably come back to an emergency session.
"It is clear we have a problem," said a source in the Assembly. "The actual number, who knows. But everyone seems to believe that it will be in the $500 million to $800 million range."
A source in the state Senate said of the published reports, "They are in the ball park."
Concern about the state's fiscal health began to mount early last week, when state Comptroller Edward V. Regan said the state's fiscal 1992 budget for the first six months was $155 million out of balance, caused mostly by higher-than-expected spending.