NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 6, 2010

Are New York's schools 65 percent better than the national average? Are its hospitals 73 percent better or its prisons 63 percent better?  For that matter, is the New York Legislature 161 percent better than the average state's? 

These questions arise because the Empire State spends that much more than the U.S. average in these areas, says Lawrence Mone, president of the Manhattan Institute. 

Other examples: 

  • $15,987 per pupil on K-12 education, more than any other state.
  • $7,927 per Medicaid enrollee, second highest in the nation and 73 percent above the national average.
  • $36,835 per prison inmate, fifth among the states.
  • And $989,892 per member of the Legislature on the budgets for the state Assembly and Senate.  

New York faces a $9 billion budget deficit in the coming fiscal year, and local governments also face large shortfalls.  Yet countless analysts and politicians, including Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch, suggest that it is impossible to close these budget gaps without raising taxes and incurring debt. 

In fact, "impossible" may be how they see the politics of cutting spending -- but it certainly doesn't apply to the math of trimming the budget, says Mone: 

  • Census numbers (for 2007, the most recent complete data set) reveal that New York spends far more per capita on state and local government ($12,920) than any other state but two.
  • And those exceptions are Alaska and Wyoming -- two atypical states with low populations and vast energy industry-derived revenues.
  • Indeed, if the Empire State simply cut its per capita spending to the level of the next highest state, California (fourth on the list at $10,940 per capita), it would save some $38 billion a year.
  • A cut in federal matching funds would partly offset the savings, but the remainder would be more than enough to close this year's budget gap and slash the tax burden.  

It's time for New York taxpayers to demand that their elected officials get serious about cutting spending, says Mone. 

Source: Lawrence Mone, "Less Than We Pay For," New York Post, April 5, 2010.

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