March 31, 2021
Albany, NY

Audio & Rush Transcript: New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica Is a Guest on NY1 with Pat Kiernan

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Audio & Rush Transcript: New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica Is a Guest on NY1 with Pat Kiernan
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Robert Mujica: "Everyone's focus is the recovery and making sure that we fund the items to help New Yorkers, at the same time striking a balance so that we don't reach a tipping point where instead of helping with the recovery we're actually harming it."

Mujica: "There is a shortfall of about $2.5 billion just to make up the revenue shortfall. And then there are spending priorities focused on the recovery that we have to fund in the budget."

Mujica: "The top priorities in the budget though are coming together. The Legislature passed the cannabis legislation. We have the public safety plans across the state. New York City has submitted a plan and public safety is also key, making sure the recovery in New York is one where people want to come back. The Governor had a $325 billion rebuilding program. It's the most expansive in the state's history and the largest in the country and that will be funded and that's thousands and thousands of jobs across the state. Making sure that New Yorkers who lost their jobs or not able to pay their rent, so rent relief is a top priority. Making sure that students who had to learn from home, we found out there was an inequity there, so funding universal broadband and requiring universal broadband for those that need it most was important, and again, nursing home reforms. Those are the top priorities that we're working on, and all of those are coming together in the final hours of the budget."

Earlier today, New York State Budget Director Robert F. Mujica, Jr. was a guest on NY1 with Pat Kiernan and provided an update on this year's State budget negotiations.

AUDIO is available here.

A rush transcript of the interview is below:

Pat Kiernan: Thank you for making some time with us on a busy day. We're essentially at the Budget deadline. What do you see at this point as the major open item?

Robert Mujica: Well the overall financial plan always has to get settled at the end. With regard to the overall budget the Governor had said early on that we needed $15 billion from Washington. We end up with about $12.6 billion. There is a shortfall of about $2.5 billion just to make up the revenue shortfall. And then there are spending priorities focused on the recovery that we have to fund in the Budget, so overall we have about—

Pat Kiernan: Sorry to interrupt but how much are you treating this as a one-time budget under extraordinary circumstances and how much are you looking at, there are structural changes in what some of the revenues and necessary expenses might be, because we're not recovering from the pandemic next week or even entirely next year.

Robert Mujica: Right, the recovery is going to take some time and we had about, the Governor had said we had about a $2.5 billion shortfall that we needed to fund and that needed to have additional revenue increases to fund that. The Legislature had about $7 billion in revenue increases in their proposed budget which included a lot of spending that's focused on the recovery and I think everyone's focus is the recovery and making sure that we fund the items to help New Yorkers, at the same time striking a balance so that we don't reach a tipping point where instead of helping with the recovery we're actually harming it. The top priorities in the budget though are coming together. The Legislature passed the cannabis legislation. We have the public safety plans across the state. New York City has submitted a plan and public safety is also key, making sure the recovery in New York is one where people want to come back. The Governor had a $325 billion rebuilding program. It's the most expansive in the state's history and the largest in the country and that will be funded and that's thousands and thousands of jobs across the state. Making sure that New Yorkers who lost their jobs or not able to pay their rent, so rent relief is a top priority. Making sure that students who had to learn from home, we found out there was an inequity there, so funding universal broadband and requiring universal broadband for those that need it most was important, and again, nursing home reforms. Those are the top priorities that we're working on, and all of those are coming together in the final hours of the budget.

Pat Kiernan: You mentioned this idea of the tipping point, and we've heard a lot of discussion about this. Does New York become an inhospitable place to live, or an inhospitable place to do business for wealthy people who might have some ability to go to another state, to move to Florida, for example. Where does the negotiation stand right now on the tax on the wealthy that has been discussed?

Robert Mujica: So where we focused on is, what do we need to fund? What are the top priorities? As we establish an overall financial plan, we'll look at how do we fund the top priorities? A lot of these are one-time costs to deal with the recovery, and as we recover, the need for some of these items go away, and then there are recurring items. That's what we're working on with the legislature right now. But again, there is a tipping point. We don't know exactly what that is. We know a lot of New Yorkers have left New York. We know that the unemployment rate right now is relatively high. And whatever we do on the tax side, we want to make sure, right, that we're striking that balance with funding the items for the recovery, but at the same time, not discouraging job growth and not discouraging those jobs from coming back to New York.

Pat Kiernan: Have the discussions with the legislature been proceeding without distraction? There have been so many questions around the Governor's Office and the Governor's conduct. Are you able to continue with what you need to do despite the fact that the legislature has this investigation open?

Robert Mujica: The budget negotiations have been seamless, just like, you know, any other year. The legislature has been, we've been meeting with the legislature all day, all night. The Governor's been having calls with the leaders regularly. So, it's no different than any other budget year, except this is probably one of the most complicated budgets in my career, and I've been doing this for over 20 years. So that is probably the biggest complication, but otherwise, it's the same process and the level of engagement by all leaders, the legislature, the Governor, and all the staffs, has been very high. The complication is, you know, not being in the same rooms as a result of COVID, having to do things remotely. That obviously adds to the complexity of the negotiations.

Pat Kiernan: Are you going to get this done by tomorrow?

Robert Mujica: We're going to get it done, yes.

Pat Kiernan: Mr. Mujica, thanks for being with us this morning.

Robert Mujica: Thank you. Thank you.

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