New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s financial deci­sions could have con­tributed to his state’s high coro­n­avirus death toll. | Wiki­media Commons

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose fiscal irre­spon­si­bility has indi­rectly led to an extremely high coro­n­avirus death toll in his state, deserves more crit­icism rather than the praise he has received of late. 

New York state has quickly become an epi­center of the coro­n­avirus in the United States. According to the New York State Department of Health, there were 251,690 con­firmed cases of the virus as of April 22. 

The con­cen­tration is highest in the five bor­oughs of New York City, Westch­ester county, and Long Island. With a death toll of 14,828 and the threat of the virus still a concern, New Yorkers have been ordered to wear masks when outside and con­tinue quar­an­tining until May 15. 

Cuomo, who has served as the gov­ernor of New York since 2011, has been in the national spot­light lately. He con­ducts fre­quent press con­fer­ences about health reg­u­lation updates and encourages New Yorkers to practice social dis­tancing. With New York’s current position as a state that is severely affected, Cuomo’s deci­sions par­tic­u­larly matter. 

Many have voiced support for the Governor’s response to the virus. An article from Business Insider cites Dr. Anthony Fauci’s support for the gov­ernor. 

“Fauci, a native New Yorker, said he ‘strongly’ sup­ports Cuomo’s actions, and urged res­i­dents of the state to follow the gov­er­nor’s directive.” 

While the coro­n­avirus is an unprece­dented chal­lenge, one which political leaders should not be expected to combat with per­fection, Cuomo’s history of fiscal cor­ruption and waste prior to the pan­demic should not be excused. His incom­pe­tence in dealing with the current crisis lies in the cor­ruption of the past. 

New York’s state gov­ernment is far from exem­plary. A database at the Uni­versity of Mis­souri tracks cor­ruption in the states. According to the database, New York has the highest number of cor­ruption cases since 2005, with thirty cases.

New York’s taxes are also the  highest in the country, according to a report from CNBC, paying $2,249 per person.

The bil­lions of dollars tax­payers relin­quish to the gov­ernment every year should be bud­geted well and fun­neled into pro­grams that pos­i­tively impact res­i­dents. Cuomo’s record sug­gests he has done oth­erwise.

According to Real Clear Pol­itics, Gov­ernor Cuomo was made aware in 2015 that there was a shortage of ven­ti­lators needed for a pan­demic. Instead of pur­chasing the life-saving machines, he ordered health pro­fes­sionals to create stan­dards for rationing the supply that was available.

“Cuomo could have pur­chased the addi­tional 16,000 needed ven­ti­lators for $36,000 apiece or a total of $576 million in 2015. It’s a lot of money but less than the $750 million he threw away on a boon­doggle ‘Buffalo Billion’ solar panel factory. When it comes to state budget pri­or­ities, spending half a percent of the budget on ven­ti­lators is a no brainer.”

In 2012, the gov­ernor announced plans to invest $1 billion dollars into the city of Buffalo in an effort to spark eco­nomic pros­perity and investment. The project has since been tainted by cor­ruption: Alain E. Kaloyeros was the project’s leader and a big donor to Cuomo’s election cam­paigns.

“Mr. Kaloyeros, the former pres­ident of the State Uni­versity Poly­technic Institute who was once called ‘New York’s secret weapon’ by the gov­ernor, stands accused of bid-rigging several upstate devel­opment projects, including Buffalo Billion’s biggest: a $750 million solar-panel plant on the banks of the Buffalo River,” according to an article in the New York Times. 

Another article in the Times reports that other large invest­ments by state offi­cials have been under federal inves­ti­gation.

“While no one has been charged, the governor’s office has opened its own inves­ti­gation into what it has called sus­pi­cions of ‘improper lob­bying and undis­closed con­flicts of interest’ that may have defrauded the state.”

Cuomo, along with other gov­ernors, has pres­sured the federal gov­ernment for more financial support in admin­is­tering aid to res­i­dents. 

The col­lective of the coun­try’s gov­ernors recently penned a letter to the pres­ident, asking for $500 billion of aid that would be sent to the states. Cuomo said Friday that the money should be given to states based on each one’s current COVID-19 sit­u­ation,” according to an article from The Hill. 

If Cuomo had not been so irre­spon­sible with the state budget, investing bil­lions into failed stimulus packages for cities, and allowing corrupt offi­cials to squander New York taxes, he would not be in trouble now. Thou­sands of New Yorkers may have been saved with an ade­quate supply of ven­ti­lators but instead, fiscal blunders are costing them their lives.

Lily McHale is a sophomore studying political economy.