It looks like Gov. Andrew Cuomo will get a state budget of $142 billion in on time (for the fifth year in a row) with his announcement that he and legislative leaders have reached a tentative deal.
The agreement, which still needs to be approved by the Democrat-controlled Assembly and the Republican-controlled Senate, will need to be finalized by April 1 but is already sure to fall just short of the vision Cuomo laid out in January.
Cleaning up the Capitol
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After a long slew of corruption investigations into state lawmakers and years of contention within the ranks in Albany — most recently former speaker Manhattan Assemblyman Sheldon Silver — the latest budget calls for what Cuomo described as nation's strongest and most comprehensive rules for public officials.
"I said I would not sign a Budget without real ethics reform, and this Budget does just that," the governor wrote in a statement Sunday night.
The changes include expanded disclosure of outside income earned by officials, and cements the revoking of public pensions belonging to any leader convicted of corruption. It also calls for making independent expenditures by third parties in elections more transparent, as well as ends the use of campaign money for personal use.
Some $23.5 billion will be directed toward education statewide, $1.4 billion more than originally expected and without many of Cuomo's more controversial reforms that had critics up in arms. The limit on charter schools remains the same, and Mayor Bill de Blasio will have to continue his fight to extend mayoral control of local schools.
"School aid for our kids is moving forward and public schools and colleges will get much-needed state increases," wrote Karen Magee of New York State United Teachers. "However, while Gov. Cuomo’s attempt to double down on testing has been stopped for now, too much of his destructive agenda remains on the table."
About $6.48 million will go to boost counseling and advocacy services by rape crisis centers for sexual assault survivors, as well for education and prevention efforts available to middle and high school students.
"The increased funding in the final budget recognizes the severity of the crisis," wrote Manhattan Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal, "and provides rape crisis centers with the resources necessary to provide education, intervention and direct supportive services that match the scope of the problem."
Early details budget don't address a series of issues that Cuomo outlined as priorities for his second term, namely: the DREAM Act to allow young non-citizen New Yorkers access higher education aid; a statewide minimum wage increase that would have lifted New York City residents to $11.50 an hour; and reforms to how grand juries look at police-related deaths.
"Our DREAMers can't wait another year, hoping elected leadership will summon the courage to put people before politics," DREAM Act lead sponsor Assemblyman Francisco Moya said, urging Cuomo to press on the issue before year's end.