The next step in the state budget dance, both houses have released their versions of a state spending plan. The Senate and Assembly each increase education well above Governor Cuomo’s proposed level, and each leave key elements of the governor’s plan out.
Both the Assembly and the Senate significantly increase school aid spending from Governor Cuomo’s budget, with the Assembly recommending a $1.8 billion dollar increase, and the Senate prosing $1.9 billion more dollars.
Governor Cuomo has said he’ll raise school aid by a smaller amount, $1.1 billion, but only if lawmakers agree to a lengthy list of education changes, including adding 100 more charter schools, changing teacher evaluations to rely more on standardized testing, and making it harder to get tenure and easier to fire bad teachers.
The legislature’s proposed school aid increases are not tied to any conditions.
The Assembly’s plan does not even include any of Cuomo’s education policy changes. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie says legislators don’t like all the linkage.
“It’s the governor who decided to put policy into the budget, which is something the legislature probably does not prefer to do,” Heastie said.
The Assembly plan also does not include Cuomo’s detailed ethics reform plan, which would require lawmakers with outside income to completely disclose details about their employers. Those proposals were added to the budget in the 30 day amendments, after the former Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver, was arrested on corruption charges, accused of illegally netting millions of dollars when he was employed by two private law firms.
Heastie says the Assembly is proposing greater income disclosure, and some changes to campaign financing laws, but is still discussing the rest of the governor’s proposals in the private budget meetings with Cuomo.
“I think by the time we get to voting on the budget we will have a very detailed and satisfactory ethics reform,” Heastie said.
Senate Leader Dean Skelos agrees that some kind of deal will be reached on ethics reform as part of a larger budget deal.
“I’m very confident that we will get there with a strong ethics package,” Skelos said. “And also have an on time budget.”
At the same time, legislative leaders say they want to separate out those unrelated issues, like ethics reform from spending items. That’s why the legislature has not gone through the usually routine formality of actually introducing the governor’s 30 days amendments in the Senate and the Assembly. Senate Independent Democratic Leader Jeff Klein has also been part of the private budget talks with Cuomo.
“Everything that’s contained in the 30 day amendments, we’ve been discussing,” said Klein. “We’re dealing with them as separate issues, as they should be.”
Cuomo has also tied passage of the Dream Act, which would give college aid to children of immigrants, to an education tax credit that would benefit donors to public and private schools.
The Assembly does not include the education tax credit, says Speaker Heastie.
“There are people in the conference who support it,” Heastie said. “But there wasn’t enough people in the conference to support putting it in to our resolution.”
The Senate does not have the Dream Act in it’s resolution, says Senator Skelos.
“No, that will not be in our one- house,” Skelos said.
Both houses add some new things to the budget. The Assembly wants the minimum wage to rise higher, to $15 an hour for New York City and its suburbs by 2019, and $12.60 for the rest of the state.
The Senate wants to make property tax cap, which sunsets later this year, permanent.