Assembly Democrats reject parts of Cuomo budget, seek more school aid - The Buffalo News

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Assembly Democrats reject parts of Cuomo budget, seek more school aid

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s fellow Democrats are rejecting some key aspects of his 2014 budget plan, with Assembly Democrats pushing to limit property tax breaks to more lower- and middle-class residents instead of all New Yorkers regardless of income and seeking a far higher funding commitment by the state to 700 public school districts across New York.

The proposals are contained in the Assembly’s so-called “one-house” budget resolution, which will be approved today along with the Senate’s own version, which is expected to be released today or Thursday. The resolutions could, along with Cuomo’s plan, provide a road map to where the sides will end up before budget negotiations wrap up by the end of the month if there is to be a fiscal plan in place before the 2014 fiscal year starts April 1.

Details of the Assembly plan, obtained by The Buffalo News, include:

• $22.2 billion in total state school aid, an increase of $970 million over current year spending and an increase of $402 million over what Cuomo proposed. Assembly Democrats say they want to guarantee $4 billion in education aid increases over the next four years.

• Granting permission for New York City to impose a 0.534 percent income tax surcharge on New York City residents making more than $500,000 annually, as well as $100 million additional state aid targeting high-needs districts to begin pre-kindergarten programs.

• Adding $317 million to the $2 billion education system bond act proposed by Cuomo that will go to voters this fall. The additional money will go to help private schools and private facilities for students with disabilities to help them make infrastructure improvements.

Larry Schwartz, the governor’s secretary, said, “We’re glad the Assembly agrees with the governor that property taxes need to be lowered. However, local governments need (to) find ways to cut costs, share services and lower the tax burden in order to make this relief lasting. The governor’s tax freeze, which is supported by 73 percent of all New Yorkers, would hold these governments accountable to making these reforms and helping deliver the relief that taxpayers deserve.”

Silver told reporters Tuesday that Assembly Democrats also plan to include funding for the Dream Act, which would give college financial aid to children of illegal immigrants living in New York State, as well as a new program to begin a system to distribute marijuana to certain patients with health conditions. A document obtained by The News shows the Dream Act funding plan by the Assembly will cost $25 million; Senate Republicans have opposed the plan.

The Assembly plan also calls for a $300 increase in Tuition Assistance Program awards for college students, which officials believe will help make SUNY more affordable at a time when the public university system has had annual tuition hikes. The maximum TAP award under the Assembly plan would rise to $5,300 per full-time student.

The Assembly Democrats are also calling for a base aid increase of $50 per full-time student enrolled in community colleges. They also want to increase a number of existing programs to help lower-income students attend college.

Silver said his Democratic colleagues do not want to go along with Cuomo’s property tax freeze, which gives taxpayers a break in property taxes, beginning in the second year only if their local community agrees to consolidate or merge services with a nearby community to reduce the costs of providing local government services.

“The concern with the freeze is it doesn’t go all over the state, and somebody’s benefit is contingent on some other elected official doing something in order to make them eligible for the freeze,” Silver said.

“Their feeling is that everybody needs property tax relief, and we want to get it to the most people we can in the most efficient way to the people who need it,” Silver said.

Assembly Democrats also are planning, sources said, to place new financial reporting disclosure requirements on private individuals who serve on the state’s 10 regional economic development councils, which advise the governor on how hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and tax breaks are to be distributed around the state each year.


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