New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo released his proposed 2014-15 budget Tuesday, drawing mixed reactions from elected officials representing Rockland County.State Senator David Carlucci and Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski both praised the plan, but Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee said that Cuomo is not doing enough to fund education in New York.
“Governor Cuomo’s budget presents a responsible spending plan will keep State spending under inflation and makes long term investments in our State,” said Zebrowski. “I praise the Governor’s emphasis on education including the creation of a panel that will review the Common Core implementation and major investments in universal pre-kindergarten. The budget also addresses one of the top concerns that I hear from Rockland residents; property taxes.
"The Executive budget proposes several tax relief proposals including the property tax freeze program that will both reduce the tax burden and incentivize substantive changes in local governments. I look forward to reviewing these proposals in more depth as the budget language is released and working with the Governor to enact New York’s fourth consecutive, on time budget.”
A detailed look at Cuomo's budget plans, including a briefing book with a statement by New York Budget Director Robert L Megna, is available online here. Highlights of the $137 billion spending plan include:
- Increasing education aid by $807 million, or about 4 percent.
- Allocating $1.5 billion over a five year period to fund a statewide universal full day pre-K program.
- Allocating $720 million during a five-year period to expand after school programs.
- A $2 billion Smart Schools Bond Act to ensure that all students have access to the latest technology needed to compete on the global stage.
- Providing $1.2 billion in capital funding to help hospitals, nursing homes and long term care facilities restructure to provide quality community based care.
Other highlights of the budget, which can be found here, include $157 million for the EPF, an increase of $4 million from this year’s budget; an additional $100 to continue the state Superfund cleanup program; and a two-year freeze on property taxes for homeowners in school districts and local governments that stay within the property tax cap.
“In the past, budgets in New York State have meant little more than out of control spending that catered to special interests and created a fiscally dilapidated and unhealthy New York,” Cuomo said in a statement. “But over the last three years, with fiscal discipline and responsible policymaking, New York State has turned a $10 billion deficit into a $2 billion surplus and made the government work again. This year, our budget is more than numbers: it is an innovative action plan building on the progress of the last three years by restoring the public’s trust and making New York a state that is smarter, cleaner, healthier and reimagined for the future.”"I am encouraged to hear Governor Cuomo speak directly about property taxes in his budget proposal," Carlucci said.
As an elected official I made sure to focus on consolidation of government as a smart and effective way to save taxpayer dollars.Tying a property tax freeze with the 2% property tax cap is a great way to incentivize local governments to consolidate."
Carlucci also supported Cuomo's plan to increase funding for a statewide pre-kindergarten program.
"Study after study has shown that early intervention through pre-k shines positively on people later in life in almost every field of study," Carlucci said. "Creating a Statewide Universal Pre-Kindergarten program will go a long way to make sure our children are ready to compete in the global marketplace after graduation."
Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack also focused his response on Cuomo's proposals for educational funding.
"Governor Cuomos 2014 Budget proposals help to continue the State of New York's progress," Gromack said. "The Governor's education initiatives, which center on education funding for full-day pre-kindergarten, after school programs, as well as scholarship money to encourage and support high school students interested in STEM careers, will provide the foundation and support our youth need. The Governor's continued support to communities to fund shared services is important in ensuring local government is efficient for the taxpayers."
Jaffee said Cuomo did not include enough funding for education in his proposed budget, pointing to a letter that she and 82 other state legislators signed calling on him to add $1.9 billion in aid to schools. She said the money needs to cover items such as increased testing requirements.
"I have very serious concerns regarding his proposals," Jaffee said. "They don't come close to the requests we feel are essential in terms of funding. Depending on who you ask, it loks like it's $682 million, but it could be more like $608 million. We have a serious situation with schools struggling already with cuts over the last several years. We need an increase in spending.
"I will be fighting for increased funding for our schools."
The Alliance for Quality Education sent out reaction saying that the governor is not doing enough to balance the inequality between schools in wealthy areas and those with lower-income populations.
"With this status quo budget, the Governor is sending a clear message to New York school children: your constitutional right to a sound basic education doesn't matter," said David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center. "It repudiates the Campaign for Fiscal Equity remedy, and does nothing to reverse the severe cuts to essential programs and staff, especially in our highest need districts. We look forward to working with the Legislature to expand access to high quality preschool. But this must be done alongside a significant boost in K-12 funding. It makes no sense not to do both."
AQE Executive Director Billy Easton added that the pre-K program needs better long-term funding to be considered universal.
Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino, who has expressed interest in running as the Republican candidate against Cuomo in November, commented on the budget with this Tweet: “Gov. Cuomo must live in another state. NY falling farther behind under his band aid approach. Need bold solutions, not empty checklists.”
Astorino then pointed to a Moody’s report released Tuesday that said retail activity in the state appears to be slowing outside the New York City metro area based on fourth quarter sales tax revenue.
The budget, which must now be approved by the state Legislature, would go into effect on April 1.
"There will be a very intense review of the budget, particularly of education," Jaffee said.