Albany Round-up

March 11, 2013

No drama in NY budget slated for early approval


Senate Republicans want $2 billion in tax cuts and credits for businesses, farmers and the middle class along with incentives to create jobs. The measure may be tied to raising the minimum to wage to as high as $9 an hour, as proposed by the Democrat-led Assembly, but it appears any debate on wages may wait until after the budget is passed.

Other proposals to increase the budget include finding more than $250 million for New York City schools. They lost their 4 percent increase in aid because Mayor Michael Bloomberg failed to agree with a teachers union on evaluations.

The Alliance for Quality Education is also pushing for $350 million more aid for all schools, with larger shares to poorer schools.

Cuomo notes his 4 percent increase in school aid is larger than most areas of the budget. The AQE, however, argues that flat budgets and previous cuts have hurt schools and cut teachers and programs. A 2 percent cap on local school property taxes enacted by Cuomo and the Legislature is another choke point, according to AQE.

Resolving the issues and delivering a March 21 budget would make it the earliest since at least 1975. Three since 1997 have dragged into August.

The cause for on-time budgets is more than Albany getting religion on fiscal matters. Former Gov. David Paterson successfully tested a law that gives governors more power in budgeting. If the April 1 deadline is missed, a governor can impose his budget as part of emergency spending measures. The Legislature can either approve it all or risk shutting down government and getting the blame.

And Cuomo continues to make the process more orderly. He sticks to spending increases of no more than 2 percent and the most contentious negotiations over school aid are tamed by tying increases to a formula for growth that considers inflation.

As past governors and legislators have done, issues not easily resolved in the budget are put off until later in the half-year session. Among those issues this year appear to be raising the minimum wage and Cuomo's proposed approval of three or more casinos.

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Albany Round-up