Karen DeWitt / NY Public Radio
Governor Cuomo gathered with leaders of the legislature to celebrate an on time budget for the second year in a row, but some minority party members weren’t as happy.
The New York State Assembly finished work on the budget shortly after 3 pm Friday, the Senate at around 4:30, completing their work one day before the spending plan is due.
Cuomo and majority party legislative leaders praised each other for their efforts in achieving two on time budgets in a row, which they say is considered a feat after decades of late budgets.
The governor says he “salutes” legislative leaders for their efforts.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, responded in kind.
“Governor, we thank you, for your great leadership,” Skelos said.
Then, they took turns posing for pictures as the governor signed the first of several budget bills. Cuomo says government is once again functioning, and it’s a “very proud day for the entire state”.
“This more of a reform plan than a budget,” said Cuomo, who said the spending plan creates “major transformation”.
Cuomo credits the budget, as well as agreements approved in mid-March ,for implementing new teacher evaluations, pension changes that create a new tier of lowered benefits for public employees, and helping local governments with Medicaid costs. The governor says a major infrastructure initiative will repair dilapidated roads and bridges and create construction jobs.
Cuomo and the majority party legislative leaders stood at the podium to announce the end of the budget process, minority party leaders were invited to the event, but had to sit in the audience.
On the Senate floor, some Democrats, who are in the minority in that house, spoke against a process that they say excluded them. Senator Kevin Parker earlier in the week, had expressed his displeasure with in a controversial tweet that said the budget was completed by “three white men” in a room.
“It’s a joke,” said Parker, who said the process “ iced out” the minority party conferences.
Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson was more conciliatory in his final budget comments saying that he was voting yes.
“Is the process perfect?”, Sampson asked. “I would say no”.
But Sampson says a “foundation” has been laid for “fairness and equity”.
The budget increases spending to schools and health care by 4% over last year, when there were $10 billion dollars in cuts. Still, many school leaders say they are facing deep cuts in programs and personnel in September. Governor Cuomo, who often refers to his political philosophy as a “progressive who is broke”, says it’s the best that could be done, under the present economic constraints.
“Would we have liked to have raised it more? Of course,” said Cuomo, who said he still thinks the increase was “a very significant raise”.
And legislative leaders add the $805 million dollars in additional school aid was directed at the poorest schools who need the money the most.