NY lawmakers will pass a state budget this week

It now looks like the Legislature will pass some state budget this week, then go into recess for a while to see how the coronavirus epidemic plays out. Fair enough — if lawmakers stick to what’s absolutely necessary, and don’t add to the damage.

As E.J. McMahon notes (and warned weeks ago, as the stock market started to dip), this crisis is guaranteed to mean at least a short-term revenue hit for the state and local governments.

Wall Street is way down; much of Main Street is shut down, or will be. Tourism, nightlife and all manner of routine economic activity are on hold — all of them slashing tax payments.

While Gov. Andrew Cuomo has asked state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to assess the impact, full answers won’t be clear for weeks or months. After all, as the gov notes, “You may be looking at a nine-month economic slowdown across the board.”

Bottom line: What was already a multibillion-dollar budget gap has gotten far worse. That means that all the spending hikes that lawmakers intended have to be off the table. No new programs, no new spending of any kind: The reality is that they’re going to have to slash spending whenever they return to finish the legislative session.

The first instinct of the progressives who run the Legislature — hike taxes in the name of balancing the books — is guaranteed to make the economic picture worse, kicking average New Yorkers when they’re down.

Even more “millionaires taxes” would be self-defeating: As McMahon has noted in these pages, “New York’s tax base is both exceptionally wealthy — and exceptionally fragile.” A full 40 percent of state personal-income-tax revenues are “generated by the highest-earning 1 percent of taxpayers.”

Many of these folks are now telecommuting. Don’t give them fresh reason to move to Florida.

Lawmakers’ duty is first to do no harm: For now, assume that federal aid — more than $7 billion in new Medicaid funds alone, thanks to Sen. Chuck Schumer — will cover the immediate crisis.

Pass a bare-bones budget so state and local governments can continue to function during the crisis. Figure out the rest when everyone is on the other side of the lockdowns.

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