(Adds quote from Governor Andrew Cuomo)
By Edward Krudy
NEW YORK, April 1 New York legislators approved
a $137.9 billion budget for the state's 2014-15 fiscal year late
on Monday, providing funding for statewide full-day
pre-kindergarten programs and keeping spending growth below 2
Passed on the last day of the state's fiscal year, the
approval marks the state's fourth on-time budget in a row,
something that has not happened for nearly four decades and not
under a single governor since Nelson Rockefeller.
The spending blueprint includes an increase of more than 5
percent in school aid, of which $340 million will be used to
roll out pre-kindergarten and expand after-school programs
across the state.
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the budget into law at a
meeting with legislative leaders on Tuesday morning.
"This state's administration has delivered four on-time
budgets in a row - under the same governor and legislative
leadership - for the first time in more than forty years," Cuomo
said in a statement.
Cuomo was able to push through his signature tax relief
agenda. The new budget earmarks $1.5 billion in property tax
relief for homeowners and establishes a 20 percent real estate
property tax credit for manufacturers who own or lease property.
Beginning in 2014, the tax rate on income for all manufacturers
will fall to zero from the current 5.9 percent.
The budget totals $142.8 billion when combined with federal
aid for Superstorm Sandy and the Affordable Care Act, making it
$2.5 billion, or 1.8 percent, more than the previous year.
Under Cuomo, who is up for reelection in November, New York
is shedding its reputation for budgetary dysfunction. Since 1978
the state budget has been an average of 36 days late, in some
years running into July and even August, according to the
state's budget office.
Unlike that of most other states, New York's fiscal year
starts on April 1 instead of July 1.
Cuomo has long been linked to a run for the Democratic
presidential nomination and the comparison with Rockefeller, who
was vice president under Gerald Ford, may turn out to be an
auspicious one for Cuomo.
Elizabeth Lynam, a long-time state budget watcher at the
Citizens Budget Commission, says Cuomo has brought a
consensus-building approach to the job over the last three years
and that is allowing him to bridge divides.
"Other governors have held out, taking the criticism for
being late in favor of better leverage with the legislature,"
said Lynam. "He is willing to compromise; he makes that clear."
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had made a high-profile
pitch to hike taxes on the city's wealthy to help fund those
programs in the city, but he needed the state legislature's
Lawmakers rejected de Blasio's funding scheme, instead
allocating state funds. New York City will get the lion's share,
about $300 million, leaving other school districts around the
state with $40 million.
Under the new budget, charter schools will be eligible for
the pre-kindergarten funding. The spending plan also increases
tuition funding for charter schools over three years, up to $500
per student in the third year.
On Saturday, after lawmakers had reached a budget agreement
with Cuomo that allowed for Monday's vote, de Blasio said the
state made a powerful and historic decision that will change the
lives of tens of thousands of children.
The budget also includes a plan to borrow $2 billion through
the sale of general obligation bonds, which must be approved by
voters in November, to provide high-speed Internet and other
technology and classroom construction to school districts.
(Reporting by Edward Krudy and Hilary Russ; Editing by Sofina
Mirza-Reid and Gunna Dickson)