ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had one overriding message Tuesday as he delivered his annual budget address from New York’s state Capitol: If Washington doesn’t send New York $15 billion as part of a pandemic relief package, he’ll have no choice but to slash public payrolls, cut services and raise taxes on the rich.
Cuomo argued that the state is uniquely entitled to those funds because the pandemic hit New York so hard last spring and was comparatively defenseless thanks to federal government bungling.
He went one step further and threatened to pursue litigation if the federal government did not acquiesce to his ask, though officials, when asked, did not immediately say whom the state might sue or what legal arguments New York could employ.
For the moment, though, it’s uncertain whether the state will get what it is asking for, and its new budget, due at the end of March, reflects that uncertainty. “We don’t know, in short, what level of aid we will get, but the budget is dependent on that number,” he said.
The full amount would mean New York could avoid squeezing its localities out of their allotted aid, offer relief to small businesses and restaurants, focus on education and workforce issues, and get on the road to recovery, he said. Anything less, he said, would be an affront to the suffering the state experienced as one of the first to be overwhelmed by the pandemic, calling it a “2021 version of the federal government saying ‘drop dead’ to New York.”