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Cuomo, lawmakers reach deal on $163 billion state budget

ALBANY – Agreement was reached late Friday night on a $163 billion state budget, a plan that will raise and cut public college tuition depending on income level, give higher-than-inflation aid hikes to public schools and spreads hundreds of millions of dollars around in pork barrel spending.

“I am proud of it,’’ Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said of the budget deal he announced Friday.

Legislative leaders did not appear with Cuomo. But they acknowledged fiscal agreements have been made.

The final budget has not been approved. That will come in the days ahead, officials said.

The budget bills on the final round of deal-making were not immediately made public Friday night.

Snags ended Friday night when several final education and criminal justice matters were resolved.

The departure of the Senate Wednesday and a growing eagerness to conclude disputes by the Assembly, which did not send members home, all helped to prod the sides to a final deal.

The Assembly leaders hoped to take up the final couple budget bills sometime early Saturday.

The Senate could return as early as Sunday.

Billions of dollars already had been approved earlier this week with the passage of the less controversial areas of the budget. But a few thorny issues held up legislation affecting tax policies, public university tuition levels, state aid to public schools and funding for state agencies that carry out missions from paving roads to running the massive Medicaid health insurance program.

What will $500 million in Buffalo Billion II buy?

Once the final bills are adopted in the days ahead, the state’s 700 or so school districts will be able to better plan their own budgets in the face of a deadline for local districts later this month to approve fiscal plans for the coming school year.

State state aid to schools will rise by $1.1 billion, or 4.4 percent, to $25.8 billion. The main “foundation aid” funding formula will go up $700 million.


In Buffalo, state aid will rise 4.4 percent in the coming school year. State funding for schools in Amherst and Williamsville will grow by less than 1 percent, Cheektowaga Central's increases by 2.25 percent while districts like Cleveland Hill will get a cut in state aid.

In all, state aid to schools in Erie County in the coming year will total $1.4 billion, up $43 million from the current year.

In Niagara County, where six of out of 10 districts are getting state funding increases of at least 4 percent, total flow of state aid will reach $329 million.

Among the deals made:

Ride-hailing services will be offered upstate and on Long Island as soon as late spring or this summer.

"Finally, upstate New York will have access to ride-sharing services that can provide safe, reliable transportation options to restaurants and bar patrons,'' the New York Restaurant Association said.

Budget deal will bring Uber and Lyft to upstate


No tuition to public colleges this year for students from families with  incomes under $100,000 but the State University of New York will be pertmitted to raise tuition $200 per year over the next five years.

Localities pushed to consolidate services, but Cuomo lost in his effort to require counties to put those plans to a referendum by local voters.

Age of  adult criminal responsibility raised  from 16 to 18 years.

Clean drinking water infrastructure improvements costing $2.5 billion.

More money to combat heroin and opioid addictions,

Lowering the cost of workers compensation for businesses.

“This was a great, great progressive accomplishment,’’ Cuomo said.

Lawmakers rejected expanding the collection of sales tax on internet sales.

Cuomo said the budget will permit all union members to deduct their dues on state income taxes.

Legislative leaders reacted in written statements released by Cuomo’s office.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan cited, among other things, GOP efforts that beat back some tax and fee hikes Cuomo proposed.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the budget is adopting criminal justice changes for 16- and 17-year-olds that Democrats pushed for years.

Sen. Jeff Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, which was part of the budget deal, highlighted $10 million for a new immigrant legal defense fund and big boosts in education and environmental spending.

But Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, head of the mainline group of Senate Democrats, said the budget deal should have resulted in more school aid, ethics and voting law changes and a more robust higher education financing deal.

Omitted from the deals were any new controls or oversight on how the Cuomo administration spends money on economic development projects. That troubles many lawmakers after federal prosecutors accused eight men of alleged bid-rigging schemes in earlier development projects.

A day after a federal judge set a trial date for the Buffalo Billion corruption case, Republicans took to the floor of the Assembly to raise concerns about the failure to approve transparency and oversight procedures over billions of dollars spent each year on economic development.

None of the 25 projects touted for the second phase of the Buffalo Billion are outlined in the budget, Assemblyman Raymond Walter, an Amherst Republican, noted during floor debate.

Assemblyman Herman Farrell, a Manhattan Democrat who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, told him that he was correct and that Cuomo has discretion over how that money ends up getting spent.

“That’s pretty scary that we give him that kind of authority,’’ Walter said.

Walter then asked the whereabouts of another $100 million to get the funding up to the full $500 million that Cuomo promised for the second phase, but Farrell said he was uncertain where it was but that the funding was scattered in various areas of the budget.

Farrell also suggested that oversight of the economic programs had been done partly in recent years by the U.S. Attorney’s office, adding "I guess they will continue” until the state puts new oversight procedures in place.

The Assembly on Friday passed a 905-page bill that included billions of dollars for capital projects around the state. It included the Buffalo Billion money, which was included in a temporary spending measure approved earlier this week to keep the government operating until the end of May. It also okayed a bill the Senate approved this week to fund the operations of the Legislature and Judiciary.

The capital bill included over $500 million in pork barrel spending to be decided by the Legislature, more money for Buffalo’s Main Street project and another annual payment of $2.3 million to the Buffalo Bills as part of the deal several years ago for the team to stay in Western New York.

The deal announced by Cuomo and legislative leaders Friday night will, once given final approval, allow something else to resume: the pay of legislators, which was suspended once the budget ran past its April 1 start date.

It was the third year in a row of late state budgets, though this year's fiscal plan, so far, is the latest since 2010.

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