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Duffy discusses state budget with local leaders

PLATTSBURGH - Community leaders had the opportunity to get a detailed look at what Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has proposed in his 2011-12 executive budget.

Lt. Gov. Robert J. Duffy gave an overview of the budget to an audience of local dignitaries and business officials at the West Side Ballroom Feb. 7. Duffy said the governor's proposal would help curb the "spending addiction" seen in Albany over recent years and "bring fiscal sanity to state operations."

The governor's plan also aims to "transform the state budget process" by eliminating a $10 billion deficit without raising taxes or borrowing. According to Duffy, the plan calls for reducing the cost and size of state government, merging and consolidating state agencies, and reducing excess capacity in prisons, youth detention centers and mental hygiene facilities.

"We have to recalibrate the spending in the state. We have to change it and change is very difficult," said Duffy.

The governor's plan also looks at formulas previously used in Albany to calculate Medicaid and education spending. A Medicaid redesign team will identify initiatives to reduce state funding of Medicaid by $2.85 billion during the 2011-12 fiscal year and by $4.6 billion in 2012-13. The cost-cutting measure could be done by modifying program requirements and limiting spending growth to the 10-year rolling average of the Consumer Price Index's medical care component, Duffy said.

"So far, they've come up with about 1,000 ideas that's about looking for ways to serve patients better, reduce costs, and increase quality," Duffy said of the Medicaid redesign team. "It's really looking at the system and trying to get everybody to the table and figure how we can improve how we spend our money, how we end up increasing the results."

Cuomo's budget also calls for $19.4 billion to be allotted for school aid during the 2011-12 school year - a 7.3 percent decrease over last year's budgeted $20.9 billion. The decrease in school aid funding will have a minimal effect on schools, Duffy said, as the proposed reduction represents only 2.9 percent of total operating expenditures estimated to be made by school districts statewide during the 2010-11 school year.

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