When the budget passed in Albany earlier this month, one bill came up a little short.
"Capital budget is a bill that is part of the budget. There are three appropriations bills and the capital budget is one of those," said David Freidfel of the Citizen's Budget Commission. "This year, they did pass a capital bill, but it was a little bit lighter than years past. It contained the real basic nuts and bolts that you'd like to see in a capital budget. It was missing some of those additional items that the governor and the legislators kind of dole out later."
Those items include $40 million for schools, libraries, and non-profits, including community-based organizations. Leaders in the Assembly and state Senate often spread out that money to individual member districts for various projects.
"Ever since we have had representational democracy and legislatures, legislators have wanted to bring back some of the resources from the collective back to their home districts," said David Birdsell of Baruch College.
Going a step further, last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo used his line item veto authority to strike appropriations from previous years. These are not new projects, but ones that have already been underway and need recurring funding to continue in subsequent years. Cuomo proposed $122 million for those capital projects this year, but only put in $78 million. The legislature restored the $44 million, but Cuomo struck it from the budget.
The question then becomes, why? Cuomo has been battling with Senate Democrats, including individual members. Some insiders believe he may be using his leverage to punish them.
"Andrew Cuomo knows absolutely every rule in the rulebook. He knows how to use it and he is willing to use it," Birdsell said. "That is what distinguishes him from some of his predecessors: it's that he always knows where the lever of power is and he is willing to press that lever."
Cuomo said previously that the $40 million will get negotiated outside the budget, likely in June. As for the $44 million, the administration says those were legislative adds and the governor was not doing new capital projects this year.
One thing is for sure, though: if individual members want any of that money from the governor, they will have to work with him.