Legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo today are set to announce an agreement on a budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year that increases school aid and funding for pre-kindergarten, enacts property-tax reforms and delays implementation of new testing standards on students.
The sides were expected to huddle to address some unresolved items, such as final school aid figures and whether to include some type of public financing of campaigns in the budget.
The agreement would increase school aid by $1.1 billion, install a two-year property-tax freeze and delay implementation of the Common Core testing.
The sides are busily trying to get an on-time budget for the fourth year in a row — a key goal of Cuomo as he seeks re-election in November. The 2014-15 fiscal year that starts Tuesday.
Some proposals are not going to be included in the budget. The legalization of medical marijuana and providing college assistance to immigrants in the country illegally won’t be part of the deal. Neither will a proposal pushed by religious groups to give tax breaks to donors who contribute to private schools.
Cuomo, though, reached a compromise on his top priority: property-tax reform.
Cuomo has pressed for a two-year, property-tax freeze that would require local governments and schools to cap property taxes and, in year two, agree to cut the tax levy. In exchange, homeowners would get a rebate check that averages about $350 a year.
Lawmakers said the final budget will allow local governments and schools who have shared services in recent years to qualify for the tax rebate. Also, schools and local governments would have to develop a plan to share services, but it would not be tied to any specific cuts in the tax levy.
The changes would seek to address concerns by local officials and some lawmakers that the freeze would lead to reductions in services and programs.
“We’re doing in the context of how do we continue to support our school districts and our communities so they can balance their budgets, and how we don’t have to impact property taxpayers,” said Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, Monroe County.
The $138 billion budget would also increase school aid by about $300 million more than Cuomo proposed Jan. 21. Cuomo proposed an increase of $807 million, or nearly 4 percent, to a total of about $22 billion.
Another $340 million would be designated for full-day, pre-kindergarten statewide. But $300 million of it would go to New York City to satisfy Mayor Bill de Blasio. He wanted to raise taxes on the rich to fund the program in the city, but Cuomo and Republicans were opposed.
Lawmakers and Cuomo were finishing budget language that would delay the use of Common Core-based test scores in grade-promotion decisions for students in grades 3 through 8.
The delay is expected to be for two years, but not impact the use of the tests on teacher evaluations. Unions wanted teachers to also be held harmless.
Lawmakers said another change would be to allow an upstate manufacturing tax credit proposed by Cuomo to be expanded statewide. Some downstate lawmakers wanted their regions included in the budget deal.
Legislative leaders and Cuomo have suggested privately that public financing of campaigns start with a pilot project for the state comptroller’s seat.
But good-government advocates are opposing the measure, saying they want a public-matching system of small donors for state legislative and statewide seats.
Dave Palmer, manager of the Fair Elections Campaign, ripped the comptroller-only proposal.
“So-called “compromises” like the ‘comptroller-only’ option are just another excuse to satisfy the status quo and keep corruption as firmly entrenched tomorrow as it is today,” he said.