Groups react to Cuomo's budget proposal

Karen Dewitt
January 22, 2014

Reactions are pouring in to Governor Cuomo’s budget plan. They range from praise to criticism.

Business groups are among the happiest so far with Governor Cuomo’s budget. The State’s Business Council, reacting to Cuomo’s calls for a corporate tax cut, a faster phase out of an energy tax and a reduction in the estate tax and property taxes, say they “applaud the Governor’s continued commitment to improve the state’s business climate."

Senate Republicans are also largely favorable to the governor’s proposals. GOP Leader Dean Skelos says while he’d like the tax cuts to happen even more quickly, it’s a budget his members can live with, with only a few tweaks.

“The governor has once again presented an executive budget that I think we can work with,” says Skelos, who predicts another early budget agreement.

But others are far more critical. Education advocates, including Billy Easton of the Alliance for Quality Education, say the $807 million school aid increase Cuomo is seeking is less than half of what’s needed just to maintain the current level of teachers and programs.

“Schools have just taken cut after cut,” said Easton, who says the proposed school aid increase “doesn’t even come close to the actual rising costs."

The State Board of Regents has estimated that an extra $1.3 billion is needed for the 2014-15 school year.

Progressive leaning groups have joined with unions, including the teachers union and the AFL-CIO as well as the Working Families Party, to try to convince lawmakers to reject some of the governor’s proposed tax cuts in favor of giving more money to school children, and others with needs, like the homeless.

Michael Kink, with the Strong Economy for All Coalition, believes the public will be on their side.  

“I think people, once they hear the idea of a billion dollars a year in tax cuts only for millionaires, billionaires and Wall Street, that’s not something that New Yorkers are going to want their lawmakers to move forward with,” Kink says.

The groups have been heartened by the success of New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio, who continues to call for a tax on the rich to pay for universal access to pre-kindergarten programs. Governor Cuomo, in his budget, offered a plan to more slowly phase in universal access to pre-K over five years.  

Governor Cuomo also, for the first time, is requesting a budget line for public financing of campaigns, though he has not yet filled in the details of a dollar amount or funding source.

Government reform groups are praising him for pressing the issue. Karen Scharff is with Citizen Action.

“We’ve been saying all along that public financing is essential to changing the pay-to-play, legal bribery culture in Albany,” Scharff says.

Citizen Action and other government reform groups also like Cuomo’s $5.3 million proposal to create an independent enforcement unit to probe campaign violations.

The legislature has just over two months to modify the governor’s budget.