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Andrew Cuomo
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If spending other people’s money were a golf tournament, New York lawmakers would again be wearing the green jacket. And that includes Republicans as well as Democrats.

Alas, throwing around record amounts of cash without regard for our ability to pay or the return on our investment ensures we all lose. Will this horror show never end?

Albany’s passage of a record-setting $153 billion budget in the dark of night was, for both parties, an exercise in politics as usual and despicable priorities. It was hard to miss the pungent smell of a dumpster fire.

Fact is, the once-again out-of-control spending will only serve as a way for Gov. Cuomo to signal his progressive values to Democratic primary voters nationwide, as he prepares for his likely presidential bid.

Yet Republicans, who run the state Senate, backed the plan with little more than a peep of protest. They’ll have to explain to their voters what the point was of electing them.

Just how out of whack is New York spending? For context, consider Florida, which is now larger in population than New York but runs on a $82.5 billion annual budget.

That’s only a bit over half of the $153 billion budget New York legislators passed this month. Florida also doesn’t off-load its Medicaid bills to counties. And it funds its operations without an income tax.

Every New York lawmaker who failed to insist on reforms to lower New York’s massive costs is, in effect, embracing the idea that we must pay $70 billion more to a government mired in indictments, corporate payoffs, shadowy slush funds — and public employees who can make as much as 40 percent more than private-sector workers.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins’ thinking typifies lawmakers in Albany, Democrats and Republicans alike: “Progress,” she says, “is providing more school aid.”

What lawmakers don’t get is that throwing more money at something without assessing its value — i.e., its costs and benefits — is fiscal insanity.

Lawmakers looking to protect taxpayers should define progress by determining whether the school funds they’re spending actually manage to prepare students for jobs. This year, we’re funneling $1 billion more to education, bringing the total to nearly $26 billion, even though our national school-performance ranking dropped last year.

We’re also forcing New Yorkers to pay for a new college-entitlement program, full of hidden costs, without doing anything to improve college preparedness or our job market.

Now, Cuomo and Democratic lawmakers are merely pandering to their political base. It’s the same playbook they use every year: raise taxes on the so-called wealthy and redistribute the revenue; pass the buck to municipalities; hike school spending; and protect public-sector unions.

Cuomo’s Bernie Sanders-inspired free-college plan was pitched in a way that fits this bill, even though families earning $40,000 a year will pay the same tuition as families making $125,000, and we’ll likely see an increase in college costs.

Yes, the Dems’ strategy is cynical, but at least it’s understandable. What’s the GOP’s excuse? Its explanations to their base are going to be very awkward.

What stings even more is that the GOP promised this time would be different. Fact is, it wasn’t different at all; it got worse.

Lawmakers could’ve addressed New York’s highest-in-the-nation taxes or its second-to-last ranking for business, by taking up tax and regulatory reforms. Instead, with GOP support, they doubled-down — raising taxes on millionaires again, and extending the corporate cronyism that has been proven a whopping failure in terms of policy.

Their feckless attempts to Band-Aid New York’s fatal economic wounds by showering subsidies on hand-picked businesses are so short-sighted and self-serving, they’re laughable.

New York towns and counties saw no mandate relief to help trim property taxes. No tax or regulatory reform. No pullback of nonsensical health-care taxes.

Nor was there any effort to make the process more transparent, even to lawmakers who weren’t part of the leadership.

Instead, we got more than $400 million in more giveaways to Hollywood, fanciful projects that don’t create long-term jobs and slimy payoffs to special-interest groups.

This year’s budget charade proves again that almost nobody in the Capitol, on either side of the aisle, is interested in making the state more affordable. It’s time to stop electing officials more concerned with finalizing a budget and pleasing special interests than heeding the needs of residents struggling to afford to live here. It’s time for accountability. And that means new blood.

Brandon Muir is executive director of Reclaim New York Initiative.

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