Gov. Cuomo outlines 2012 NY budget plan

Local leaders happy with Medicaid relief proposal

— Cuomo noted on opening his annual budget speech that “budgets should not be traumatic” but closed with a different message.

“What we're talking about here are major shifts. Don't underestimate what we're trying to achieve. It's a paradigm shift,” he said

Under his plan, the state would take the burden of Medicaid increases off of counties' budgets, projected to save $1.2 billion over five years. Increases covered by counties are capped at 3 percent, but Cuomo wants to see all future increases absorbed by the state government.

He's also set on implementing a statewide teacher evaluation system that he said will not only improve the educational experience for students in one of the highest property-cost states but also preserve nearly $1 billion in federal funding that hinges on instituting such a system. He demanded that the union and state end their lawsuit to stop the evaluation system, saying the Legislature would create a system if those groups would not.

“That is a significant cost to the state, but we said we're serious about mandate relief,” said Cuomo.

The governor also plans to target pension relief, which should see a 185 percent increase from 2009 to 2015. For now, the proposal is to offer a new tier of enrollment for state pension programs that would save state and local governments 50 percent compared to currently offered options, though it would be a voluntary program.

In keeping with the New York Open for Business model, where the state awarded grants in a competitive system to projects that could achieve big results with small funding, the state would use $1.3 billion to spur $25 billion in private investment.

The budget would also boost Temporary Aid to Needy Families by 5 percent, an increase Cuomo said was appropriate in tough economic times.

One of the projects planned is an energy highway bringing the extra power production of upstate to the energy-hungry downstate metropolitan area.

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