Three New York state prisons will be closed and other cost-cutting moves are needed to eliminate a multi-billion-dollar budget shortfall caused by a decrease in tax revenues, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday, while releasing revised revenue estimates and amendments to his budget proposal.
The Democrat’s changes to the $175 billion spending plan he released to the Legislature on Jan. 15 include closing three of the state’s 54 correctional facilities by no later than Sept. 1. Cuomo said the prisons to be closed would be chosen after a review by state corrections officials.
Since Cuomo took office in 2011, the state’s prison population has decreased by 10,000 to just under 47,000, the lowest in 30 years, and several prisons have been shuttered.
“These new closures are another step toward reversing the era of mass incarceration and recognizing that there are more effective alternatives to lengthy imprisonment,” Cuomo said in a statement.
The closures won’t result in staff layoffs, he said.
The New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, the union representing prison guards, immediately criticized Cuomo’s plan, saying it will make prisons more dangerous, disrupt the lives of employees and devastate local economies.
“It means consolidating the incarcerated into other prisons, making them overpopulated and increasing the risk of violent behavior,” said Michael Powers, president of union.
Cuomo’s budget must be approved by the state Senate and Assembly, both controlled by Democrats.
The budget revisions and spending reduction proposals come 11 days after Cuomo and other state officials said New York’s income tax receipts were down by more than $2 billion. On Friday, Cuomo said the decrease was at $2.6 billion for the current fiscal year ending March 31 and $1.2 billion for the fiscal year starting April 1.
Cuomo is blaming much of the drastic dip in tax collections on changes Republicans in Congress made to the federal tax code in 2017, including capping a deduction for state and local taxes — known as SALT — at $10,000 starting in 2018. The tax cap particularly hurts people in high-tax states such as New York, which Cuomo and other Democrats say was the intention when Republican President Donald Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December 2017.
“As Washington continues their economic civil war by restructuring the economy to benefit red states, we are taking action to maintain a strong Financial Plan and safeguard New York’s fiscal integrity,” Cuomo said.
Republicans have defended the tax overhaul, saying the states being adversely impacted happen to be Democratic-leaning states with high taxes. GOP leaders have said those states should address their high taxes first instead of criticizing Washington.
The governor’s other proposals to cut costs include several changes to the Medicaid program aimed at putting $550 million back into the state’s general fund.
His amendments also include a proposal to allow towns to use additional sales tax revenue from an elimination of the tax advantage out-of-state online retailers can have by not collecting New York sales taxes.
Cuomo said revenues collected locally as a result of the eliminated tax advantage will replace nearly $60 million in state funding cuts to town governments that he’s proposing in his budget.