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Cuomo proposes $137.2 billion state budget with tax cuts

By The Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed budgeting $137.2 billion for the fiscal year starting April 1, an increase of less than 2 percent accompanied by business, property and estate tax relief.

The budget he's releasing Tuesday projects 3.8 percent increases for Medicaid and state funding for schools while keeping many other spending lines flat.

Cuomo wants to establish statewide pre-kindergarten programs over the next five years, a $2 billion bond act subject to voter approval to bring broadband and computers to classrooms and expanded after-school programs.

He would cut the tax rate on net corporate income from 7.1 to 6.5 percent.

Counted separately from the budget, the administration estimates another $2.4 billion in federal recovery funds for rebuilding from Superstorm Sandy and $2.5 billion for New York's implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act.

BUDGET AT A GLANCE

 - Total proposal: $137.2 billion.

- Total growth: 1.7 percent.

- A projected surplus of more than $300 million in the current year, growing to $2.7 billion by 2018.

- A 3.8 percent increase in aid for schools, to $21.9 billion.
   
- A $2 billion bond act that would bring broadband and computers to classrooms if approved by voters.

- An increases of 4.6 percent for federally and state funded Medicaid, to $58.2 billion.

- Tax and assessment reductions that will provide property, business, and estate tax relief.

- A public campaign financing system based on New York City's model with contributions of up to $175 would be matched $6 to $1.

- A total of $2.2 billion in spending over five years to fund both the after-school program and universal pre-kindergarten statewide.

- An end to standardized testing for students in kindergarten through 2nd grade.
   
- Establishing a panel to review the implementation of the statewide Common Core standards.

- Spending $15 million to plan for a new College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity.

- Scholarships totaling $8 million at public colleges for the top 10 percent of high school graduates who pursue careers in science, technology, engineering or math and agree to work in New York for five years.

- Reforming and extending for 10 years the Brownfield Cleanup Program.

- Adding $4 million would be added to the state's Environmental Protection Fund

- Seeking an additional $486 million in federal funds to replace and repair about 100 flood-prone bridges.

- Seeking $1.4 billion from the federal government to harden the state's power grid against extreme weather.

- Projects totaling $147 million along coastlines and waterways to provide flood control and critical infrastructure.

- Start a multibillion dollar overhaul of New York's mass transportation systems and New York City's airports, including protecting them against severe weather.

- Include $39 million for grants to encourage municipal consolidations and regional services and tax credits for residents of local governments that fully dissolve or consolidate.

- Hold public safety agency spending steady at $4.7 billion.

- invest $10 million in technology for state and local law enforcement agencies to share information.
 

POWER GRID PROPOSAL

Cuomo says the state will seek $1.4 billion from the federal government to harden its power grid against extreme weather.

Cuomo says i this would involve elevating low-level substations, raising power lines and more tree trimming. It also would include an outage management system on Long Island, which suffered widespread service disruption during Superstorm Sandy.

Some of the money will go to developing so-called micro-grids that will serve individual communities. The micro-grids can keep power running when the main grid goes down.

FLOOD-PRONE BRIDGES

The governor says the state will seek an additional $486 million in federal funds to replace and repair about 100 flood-prone bridges.

The proposal details the governor's plans to rebuild New York's infrastructure in the wake of mass flooding events like Superstorm Sandy.

Cuomo says it is important to make sure the bridges can withstand extreme weather.

NEW CASINOS

The budget proposal also mentions that new casinos could be operating in upstate New York by next Jan. 15.

New York voters in November passed a state constitutional amendment to allow Las Vegas-style casinos beyond Indian land. State officials can now award up to four casino licenses upstate.

Cuomo intends to appoint a siting board this month and casino applications will be accepted in March. Cuomo has said construction can begin after the early fall announcements.

PUBLIC FINANCING

The budget includes a public campaign financing system based on New York City's model.

Under the governor's proposal, contributions of up to $175 would be matched $6 to $1.

Republicans in the Legislature have been opposed to public financing.

The proposal Tuesday also includes new restrictions on personal use of campaign funds and other measures aimed at public corruption.

The Legislature has been roiled by a series of scandals involving allegations of sexual harassment and public corruption.

Within the past 10 days, Democratic Buffalo-area Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak announced his retirement amid claims by female staffers that he harassed them and Democratic Bronx Assemblyman Eric Stevenson was convicted of bribery charges.

COMMON CORE

Cuomo used his annual budget address to call for a review of the way New York has rolled out the new Common Core learning standards.

He also proposed ending standardized testing for students in kindergarten through 2nd grade.

In outlining his plans for education funding for 2014-15, Cuomo didn't oppose the more rigorous standards, but said their implementation has been frustrating for parents and students.

He says Tuesday a panel of education experts and legislators will be appointed to recommend fixes. The panel also will review his proposal to eliminate testing of the youngest students.

Cuomo's budget plan also features $1.5 billion over five years to implement universal pre-kindergarten statewide and $720 million over that time to expand after-school programs.

It increases overall spending on schools by 3.8 percent.

BROWNFIELD CLEANUP

The state's Brownfield Cleanup Program would be reformed and extended for 10 years and $4 million would be added to the state's Environmental Protection Fund under the budget proposal.

Environmental groups have criticized the brownfield program, which provides tax credits to developers who clean and build on contaminated sites. The majority of the tax breaks have gone to developers in New York City and Westchester County.

Cuomo says the new criteria will weed out abuse and direct money to needy sites across the state.

The Environmental Protection Fund would grow from the current $153 million to $157 million under Cuomo's plan. The fund pays for projects that reduce pollution, preserve open space and improve parks.

HIGHER EDUCATION

The spending plan contains $15 million to plan for a new College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity.

The new college would be part of the State University of New York system.

The initial $15 million proposed by the governor Tuesday would go toward initial planning and development costs.

Cuomo also included $8 million in his proposal to fund SUNY or CUNY college scholarships for the top 10 percent of high school graduates who pursue a career in science, technology, engineering or math - known as STEM - and agree to work in New York for five years.

The governor also has set aside an additional $10 million to fund initial planning for a new pharmacy school at Binghamton University.

PARKS AND RECREATION

The governor's proposed budget includes $135 million of new appropriations for the next round of the New York Works capital program, including $90 million for parks infrastructure improvements.

Cuomo says the Office of Parks and Recreation budget will also include $2.5 million for Olympic Regional Development Authority infrastructure. The state fairgrounds will get $2.5 million for improvements through the Department of Agriculture budget.

Cuomo says the Department of Environmental Conservation will receive $40 million for capital projects, including creating 50 new public access projects on state-owned lands.

MEDICAID WAIVER

New York's health commissioner says the state has been waiting 18 months since requesting a $10 billion federal Medicaid waiver he calls essential for eight struggling hospitals in Brooklyn and others around the state.

Dr. Nirav Shah says Tuesday nearly half New York's 227 hospitals are financially distressed.

Waivers exempt states from federal program requirements, for example letting them move beneficiaries away from fee-for-service treatment into managed care.

The Cuomo administration's proposed budget says the waiver would let the state reinvest up to $10 billion in health care delivery improvements.

It would provide $1.2 billion in capital for hospitals, clinics and long-term care facilities.

The administration also proposes "encouraging private equity investments."

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services did not immediately reply to a query about the waiver.

 

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