State budget passes in Albany

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

As expected, lawmakers in Albany approved a 2011-12 New York State budget today, Thursday, meeting the often-ignored April 1 deadline for the first time in five years.

The $132.5 billion state budget carries a 2 percent spending reduction from the previous year, something that has not been done since 1995.

The spending plan also closes a $10 billion budget gap without borrowing or raising taxes, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo. The governor released a statement at 1 a.m. this morning announcing the budget’s passage.

“I have said that New York is at a crossroads — one road leading to further dysfunction and decline, the other towards fiscal responsibility and government efficiency,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “I believe this budget puts us on the right path.”

The budget also calls for the elimination of 3,700 prison beds and cuts of $170 million in funding to the state Office of Court Administration, although it restores $86 million to the State University of New York and the City University of New York.

Mr. Cuomo and legislative leaders have also agreed to restore some $272 million of the originally proposed $1.5 billion reduction in aid to New York schools. But what that means for local school districts will not be known until late Thursday or Friday, state officials said.

“I fully expect that the dollars restored to the education budget will be put into the classroom,” said state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson). “This is the time to start redesigning the education process so that taxpayers are getting the maximum investment for their dollars.”

An aide to Mr. LaValle said the Division of Budget will release the breakdown of what individual districts will receive “later this week,” when the Legislature is expected to vote on the final budget.

The $272 million in education aid includes restoration of funding for schools for the blind and deaf and summer school special education.

Also included in the budget are restorations approved by the environment, agriculture and housing subcommittee that Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) said will strengthen Long Island’s wine and farm industries.

Some $500,000 will be restored to the Integrated Pest Management Program and $713,000 to the Wine and Grape Foundation.

“The state must continue to provide the support and resources necessary to ensure [agriculture] can continue to thrive as an engine of economic growth and job creation,” Mr. Losquadro said.

Mr. Cuomo thanked both Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for working together in crafting the budget.

“This budget makes tough choices, which is what you sent me to Albany to do,” he said.

[email protected]

Looking to comment on this article? Send us a letter to the editor instead.