Elmira Star Gazette: Cuomo targets included in Senate, Assembly budgets

(March 15, 2011)

ElmiraStarGazettelogo
Nick Reisman and Cara Matthews
Albany Bureau

 Mar. 14, 2011|

 ALBANY -- A tax on high-income earners
in the Assembly and more money for
education in the were inserted into the
Legislature's budget bills as lawmakers and
Gov. Andrew Cuomo sprint to the budget
finish line.

The state's 2011-12 budget is due April
1, the start of the fiscal.

Though legislators stressed their budgets
were similar to the spending plan
proposed Cuomo on Feb. 1, the measures
include provisions the governor has
rejected or would have to compromise on.

The Democratic-led Assembly included in
its budget proposal a tax on those who
make more $1 million a year, something
that Cuomo has flatly ruled out.

The income surcharge, which currently
affects those making $200,000 or more, is
due to expire at the end of the year. The
proposed surcharge would bring in an
additional $706 million during the 2011-
12 fiscal year.

 Liberal Assembly members have called for
the tax to be kept or adjusted upward, but
the governor and Republican-controlled
Senate are opposed to that.

In the Senate, lawmakers proposed
reinserting $263 million in education aid
for upstate cities they said were
disproportionately cut in Cuomo's budget
proposal.

Republicans said the extra money was
allocated by other cuts throughout its
$132.5 billion budget.

The Assembly's $133 billion budget would
restore even more money for education,
about $700 million. Cuomo's plan reduces
education spending by $1.5 billion
statewide, or 7.3 percent.

Cuomo introduced a $132.9 billion budget
proposal that cuts spending by 2.3
percent. The budget closes a $10 billion
deficit and makes cuts to health care and
education and resists significant fee or tax
increases.

 Sheldon Silver, the powerful Democratic
Assembly speaker from Manhattan, said he
was confident an on-time budget could be
agreed upon.

"I think it's very consistent with the
governor's plan. It adopted a lot of his
initiatives," Silver said. "We made some
restorations in areas that the conference
felt strongly about -- mainly children and
education and human services."

None of the budgets submitted by either
Cuomo, the Senate or Assembly, include a
provision for selling wine in grocery stores,
a move that is favored by the wine and
grape industry, but opposed by small
business groups.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-
Nassau County, said his conference's
budget proposal lines up well with what
Cuomo has introduced.

"I think the budget resolution that we're
presenting takes care of the disparity in the
original school-aid recommendations. It
also eliminates the cost shifts to other
levels of government that would have
increased local property taxes," Skelos
said.

The Senate budget would restore the
governor's proposed cut of the state's
$135 million subsidy to the State University
of New York's three hospitals -- in
Syracuse, Brooklyn and on Long Island. The
Assembly proposal would restore $64.4
million of the recommended reductions,
Monica Rimai, senior vice chancellor and
chief operating officer for the university
system, said during a briefing for trustees
Monday.

Both houses would add back some of
Cuomo's proposed cut of $33.2 million --
$226 per student -- at SUNY's 30
community colleges. The restorations would
be $16 million in the Senate resolution and
$16.6 million in the Assembly resolution,
she said.

Cuomo wants to reduce SUNY's state aid by
$138 million, including the $33.3 million
for community colleges.

Both houses support the governor's
proposal to remove the requirement that
the state Comptroller's Office pre-audit
SUNY's acquisition of goods, Rimai said. For
the SUNY Construction Fund, the removal
would apply to the purchase of goods and
services, she said.

Neither house's budget plan would
increase SUNY tuition. The governor's
proposal does not call for that either.

SUNY officials are pushing for a five-year
plan to increase tuition by small,
predictable amounts, as well as
authorization to enter into public-private
partnerships.

The Assembly budget proposal would cut
$52.1 million in funding for the state's
Tobacco Use Prevention and Control
Program. Cuomo recommended keeping
the program at $58.4 million a year, and
the Senate budget plan would do the same.

The American Lung Association, the
American Cancer Society, the AmericanHeart
Association and the Campaign for
Tobacco-Free Kids decried the proposal,
which they said would effectively eliminate
the program.

"When so many New Yorkers are dying and
suffering from smoking-caused diseases,
we need our elected officials to invest more
in tobacco control efforts, not less," Dr.
Irwin Berlin, chairman of the American Lung
Association board in New York, said in a
statement.

Cutting the program now would lead to
higher health-care costs later, said Julianne
Hart, government relations director for the
American Heart Association in the state.
"It's short-sighted and a disservice to New
Yorkers," she said.