Albany Round-up

March 27, 2012

Proposed NY budget of $133B passes major obstacles

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York Legislature are poised to pass a state budget on time for the second year in a row, which would be as uncommon as its small spending increase.

The Legislature takes up the $132.5 billion budget plan Wednesday in a flurry of votes that should end late Thursday or early Friday, easily making the fiscal deadline of Saturday midnight.

In closed-door meetings and phone calls Monday, Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver cleared the final major obstacles to agreement.

The proposal will increase spending 1.9 percent, the rate Cuomo proposed two months ago, while dispatching with a $2 billion deficit. If approved as planned, the budget will follow Cuomo's freshman-year spending plan that included an even rarer cut in overall spending, while dashing a $10 billion deficit.

"This will be an early budget," Skelos, a Nassau County Republican, said Monday evening.

Just seven spending plans were approved on time since 1975, although Albany seems to have gotten the knack — or the message from voters — in recent years.

A new found legal power of the governor discovered by former Gov. David Paterson provides enough of a hammer in negotiations that late budgets may soon become as rare as on-time budgets have been since Gov. Mario Cuomo had on-time budgets back-to-back in his first two years in office. His successor, Republican Gov. George Pataki, did it again in 2005 and 2006.

Legislative leaders announced Monday they would agree to allow $50 million of school aid to go to Cuomo's proposed competitive grants for schools in the fiscal year that starts April 1 ($125 million for the school year).

Cuomo had proposed $250 million to encourage innovation and to reward performance. But the Legislature and Cuomo agreed to lump the $200 million Cuomo wanted in grants into general school aid. That will mean almost all of an $800 million increase will be distributed to all 700 school districts, with the neediest schools getting a larger share.

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Albany Round-up