ALBANY – After days of closed-door talks, the State Senate on Thursday evening finally produced its resolution for how it would structure the 2014 state budget, a plan that is purposely vague in many areas to give lawmakers in the Senate room to negotiate with the Assembly and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in the next couple of weeks.
The plan calls for an increase of $200 million over Cuomo’s level state aid to cities, towns and villages, is silent on whether to allow children of illegal immigrants to get state aid for college education, and adopts a pre-kindergarten funding mechanism without raising taxes on wealthy residents in New York City. The Senate plan calls for $540 million to a pre-K and after-school program in New York City and $145 million for districts elsewhere in the state for the 2014 school year.
The Senate plan – devised by Republicans and a small group of breakaway Democrats who control the chamber – also largely agrees with Cuomo’s property tax freeze program, an idea rejected by Assembly Democrats, who favor a program that targets property tax relief for low- to middle-class residents.
The Senate plan gives control of the Yonkers school district to its mayor, but makes no mention of such powers for the mayor of Buffalo, an idea being pushed in some quarters in Buffalo and Albany.
The Senate resolution states it wants to “modify’’ Cuomo’s proposal for a controversial taxpayer-financed campaign system, but does not say how it would change it. Senate Republicans have said they would not adopt a budget that uses taxpayer money to finance political campaigns.
The property tax freeze embraced by the Senate resolution would provide $1.4 billion in relief over the next two years. Officials call it “simplified” from Cuomo’s plan, and say it gives more wiggle room than Cuomo’s plan for localities to have to enact a certain level of savings in spending in order for residents to get a property tax rebate check each year from Albany.
It also lets localities count savings achieved since 2012, several years earlier than Cuomo’s plan, to take into account mergers or shared-services deals they already enacted since the state’s 2 percent property tax cap was enacted in 2012.