Cuomo Budget Topics Include Pre-K, Tax Cuts, Campaign Finance Reform
(Update 3:57 p.m.: The official Budget Briefing Book which outlines the budget can be found at the end of this article.)
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday proposed budgeting $137.2 billion for the fiscal year starting April 1, a spending increase of less than 2 percent accompanied by business, property and estate tax relief.
The budget he released projects increases of 4.6 percent for federally and state funded Medicaid, to $58.2 billion, and 3.8 percent in aid for schools, to $21.9 billion. It keeps many other spending lines flat, including $714.7 million in state aid to cities, towns and villages.
``This year is relatively simple and straightforward,'' Cuomo said. However, he said it contains more policy and program proposals than usual.
In education, the governor wants to spend $1.5 billion to establish statewide prekindergarten programs over the next five years while spending $720 million to expand afterschool programs.
A $2 billion bond act subject to voter approval in November would bring broadband and computers to classrooms.
He would cut the tax rate on net corporate income from 7.1 to 6.5 percent, establish a 20 percent real property tax credit for manufacturers and eliminate net income tax on upstate manufacturers.
He would raise the estate tax exemption from $1 million to $5.25 million while cutting the top rate from 16 percent to 10 percent.
The budget proposes a two-year property tax freeze through state rebates to homeowners in local jurisdictions that stay within a 2 percent tax increase cap.
``This budget recognizes and believes that tax relief is an economic growth strategy that is working for our state,'' Cuomo said.
His proposal Tuesday kicks off months of negotiations in which the governor and state lawmakers will try to maintain their three-year streak of reaching a final budget deal by the start of the state fiscal year April 1.
Cuomo has said the state can amass a $500 million budget surplus this coming year if lawmakers agree to limit spending increases to 2 percent. The governor said that would allow surpluses to grow to $2 billion in three years.
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 health insurance overhaul law.
On prekindergarten, Cuomo said existing state revenues would fund the program. That differs from the proposal by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to fund citywide prekindergarten with a tax surcharge on those earning $500,000 or more. De Blasio said Tuesday that Cuomo's proposal is commendable but that he wants to continue seeking the tax hike because he's concerned the money Cuomo's talking about is not dedicated and could be shifted around down the road.
Lawmakers are likely to seek some changes to the spending plan in the coming months. Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has said his conference will need to examine the details of the proposed tax cuts to make sure the state can continue to adequately support education and health care.
The budget proposal also details the governor's ambitious plans to rebuild New York's infrastructure in the wake of mass flooding like that from Superstorm Sandy. Cuomo wants to fortify coastal infrastructure and to replace and repair 104 older bridges statewide. He also wants Metro-North Railroad to expand to New York City's Penn Station.
Cuomo's 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.
The official Budget Briefing Book can be found below: