For the second year in a row, New York State has an on-time budget. This came after the Senate and Assembly met on a special Friday session today to approve the $132.6 billion budget bill presented by Governor Cuomo and tweaked by the Senate and Assembly. “We went from a model of dysfunction to what I believe is a model of function,” said Cuomo.
The passage of the budget comes after negotiations between the three men in a room, Governor Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Speaker and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos hammered out the details and submitted the several thousand page budget bills to the legislature. The three all seemed confident from the beginning of negotiations that an on-time budget would pass in 2012. “We have turned the corner in Albany,” said Skelos.
“This budget includes much needed increases in education spending, including an increase in base aid for community colleges for the first time in five years, and vital restorations to programs that protect our state’s neediest citizens,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
The budget establishes the New York Works program, overseen by the New York Works Task Force. This fifteen member task force will coordinate efforts across forty-five agencies and authorities to coordinate spending and planning of state projects. The authority of the task force extends over the Department of Transportation, the MTA and the New York Port Authority. Governor Cuomo stated that, “The cornerstone of this budget is the New York Works program.”
The budget bill also increases spending on bridges, infrastructure and transportation by 2%. This earned the support of the New York Public Transit Association. Carm Basile, president of NYPTA stated, “With a reasonable 2% increase in spending, the state budget is both fiscally responsible and robust. New York Works, for example, is a comprehensive capital plan across 45 agencies that will create thousands of jobs. Public transit understands first-hand how investments in infrastructure have positive economic results.” She added, “NYPTA commends Governor Cuomo, Majority Leader Skelos and Speaker Silver for showing the leadership and commitment to invest so much in New York’s public transit network and its 8 million daily riders.”
Spending on education was also increased. The legislature increased spending on education by $805 million this year to $21 billion. General school aid was also pushed back up to $200 million. This comes after a $1.3 billion cut last year and a $1.4 billion cut the year before. The budget provides that SUNY schools will compete for Challenge Grants up to $20 million. “There’s money for all portions of the state. There was a strong emphasis on high-need rural districts,” said Senate Education Committee Chairman John Flanagan.
The robust budget is greeted as a good thing by most New Yorkers. The relatively smooth negotiations were evidence that the state is finally working closer to its full potential as the state with the third largest economy with an annual GDP of $1.14 trillion.
Echoing last year’s successful on-time budget, Governor Cuomo stated in a Red Room press conference, “This has been an extraordinary feat and it is a very proud day for the entire state.”