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Budget shrinks as more items dropped from spending plan

Posted by Karen DeWitt on

Governor Cuomo and the legislature are making progress on the budget. Cuomo, after a private meeting with Senate Republicans, says he’s closer to an agreement on ethics reform, but the governor is getting some criticism for dropping some items out of the budget, including the Dream Act.

The governor made a rare visit to the Senate Republican conference meeting room where he says he talked about how to come to agreement on ethics reform. Cuomo signaled that he’s willing to make some concessions on his demands that legislators who practice private law identify their clients.

“It was a good conversation,” Cuomo said. “I understand their issues.”

Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos says there are already safeguards in place to prevent legislators from earning money from clients who have business before the state.

“There is a very strong concern that clients have the  right to confidentiality,” Skelos said.

The governor says he’s not going to agree to a budget unless it contains public disclosure of law clients, and other ethics reforms.

But more items were dropped from the budget, including a proposal to raise the age that juveniles are treated as adults in the state’s prison system from age 16 to 18. And some reforms of the grand jury system are also postponed until after the budget.

The governor is getting blowback for agreeing to eliminate two other issues from the spending plan; The Dream Act, which would provide college aid for children of immigrants who are in the country illegally, and an education tax credit, also known as the ETC, that’s backed by private schools, including the Catholic Church.

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan announced that a special notice will be sent to all Catholics in the state on Palm Sunday, urging the governor not to drop the issue. And a coalition that backs the tax credit has begun running a television ad featuring the Cardinal.

“Please don’t forget us governor,” says Dolan in the ad. “So that every child can have a great school.”

Senator Jose Peralta, one of the legislature’s top supporters of the Dream Act, has broken with the traditional Senate dress code to wear a t- shirt urging the Act’s passage each day that the Senate has been in session this year. He says taking it out of the spending plan is “completely unacceptable”.

“This is very disappointing  and it is very surprising,” said Peralta, who asks until a couple of days ago, Cuomo was urging the Senator and other supporters to actively push for the Dream Act’s inclusion in the budget.

Senator Peralta says Cuomo should be trying harder to convince individual Senators to change their minds. The measure needs only a few votes in the Senate to become law.

Cuomo offered a defense for dropping the two items, saying he still considers them top priorities this year.

“We have no agreement, we are nowhere close to an agreement,” said Cuomo, who says the Senate won’t do the Dream Act and the Assembly won’t do the education tax credit.

“They’re both dug in, so it was pointless,” said Cuomo. “I support both deeply.”

Senator Skelos says another big item that’s likely off the table- how to spend a more than $5 billion dollar windfall surplus from several bank settlements.

“It’s something that I believe should be settled outside the budget and be done in a very deliberate way,” Seklso said. “Rather than rushing it in the next three days.”

With so many items now out of the budget, it’s likely to be a very busy post- budget session. 

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