NEWBURGH — Senator James Skoufis (D- Cornwall) said the state is exploring ideas to acquire desperately needed funds for the upcoming budget, one of those being seriously considered is accelerating the casino licenses that are expected to be given out for New York City.
Tuesday evening, during a virtual town hall, Skoufis said the state needs to find a way to make up for a huge deficit caused by the COVID-19 crisis before March of next year. Ideally, the federal government will approve funding for local and state municipalities in the next stimulus package, but this is not guaranteed. New York currently has billions in deficit and if no federal assistance is provided, ramping up the casino process could bring in approximately $1 billion in revenue before next year.
“The proposal would be to accelerate the license to 2020, or early 2021; and so, we would get those two $500 million one-shots: a billion dollars between the two licenses,” Skoufis explained. “The casinos themselves, their openings, would not be accelerated. They would still open, as the schedule stands now, in 2023; but, we would accelerate the licensing payments that are associated,” he said.
There isn’t a concrete plan to implement this yet because the state is still counting on the federal dollars.
Skoufis added that if the federal stimulus is not provided, the state will have to raise taxes significantly, or make significant cuts within the next month or so. The numbers projected are between $10-13 billion dollars and would include a 20 percent cut to local governments, a 20 percent cut to K-12 school budgets, and a 20 percent cut to hospitals. Raising taxes, or a combination of cuts and tax raises is also being entertained, as well as a few percent tax increase for New Yorkers making more than $5 million per year.
“We are going to have to move forward with one of those very, very soon because our cash flow problem, forget about even just the fiscal year picture, being able to pay the bills for the state’s operations are becoming strained and nearing an impossible situation,” said Skoufis.
Skoufis said state officials hope the fed will treat COVID-19 like a natural disaster and provide relief to the states that were hit very hard while taking the brunt of the cuts themselves.