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Cuomo champions newly signed budget during Western New York visit

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a 2013-14 state budget this morning at the University at Buffalo South Campus. The budget passed both houses of the New York State Legislature days before the April 1 deadline. It was the first time New York has had three consecutive, on-time budgets since 1984.

Cuomo, who called the three on-time spending plans a “hat trick,” held up a hockey puck after signing the budget in front of 250 invited guests inside Harriman Hall. Cuomo originally had scheduled the budget signing for Monday, but his flight was grounded in Albany by bad weather.

“The budget is about three things,” Cuomo said. “It’s about helping your family. It’s about creating jobs, and it’s about increasing education. It starts with the family because this budget recognizes the economic pressures that families in this state are under. Talking about economic cycles, we’ve been down for a long, long time.

“Middle-class families earning $30,000 to $300,000 will pay the lowest tax rate in 60 years,” Cuomo said before detailing the budget’s economic development initiatives, middle-class tax cuts, and education investments and reforms for Western New York. “Not since Jackie Robinson played for the Brooklyn Dodgers have taxes been this low for the middle class.”

The budget’s middle-class tax credit will allow more than 105,000 families in Western New York to save a total of $110 million.

In addition, the increase in minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 will impact approximately 67,100 workers. The increase will be phased in over several years. In referencing the wage hike, Cuomo figured the annual salary of a full-time worker receiving the minimum wage of $7.25 to be $14,000.

“You can not support a family in this state on $14,000 a year,” the governor said, drawing a round of applause from the audience. “Raising the minimum wage was the right thing to do, the fair thing to do.”

New budget measures will also work to increase jobs by offering tax breaks to 29,000 businesses.

The third piece of the budget is education.

“The single best thing we can do as a society is to give our children the best education possible. This budget provides more money for education than ever before,” Cuomo said. “But it’s not just about the money. It’s about what we get for the money.

“We talked about teacher evaluations systems in 2010, 2011 and 2012,” he said. “We couldn’t get it done. The unions resisted, the school districts resisted. This year we’re going to increase the funding so every school district will do a teacher evaluation system.”

The budget sets aside $1.9 billion in school funding, an increase of $55 million.

In addition, the budget includes:

* $46 million for municipalities here to undertake repairs on roads and bridges. That represents an increase of $8 million, or 22 percent.

* More than $3 million in new capital grants for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

* $60 million to keep the Buffalo Bills here and for improvements to Ralph Wilson Stadium.