Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state legislative leaders have achieved a rare feat with Albany poised to pass an on-time budget for the second year in a row.
Gov. Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver announced details of their $132.5 billion budget plan that increases spending about 1.9 percent and closes a $2 billion deficit. Although their talks to hammer out the details took place behind closed doors, the Legislature will adhere to a more transparent process that requires budget bills to be printed in advance for consideration rather than pushed through, commonly in the dead of night. The latter method uses messages of necessity to bypass a constitutionally required three-day waiting period on bills designed to give the public, press and lawmakers time to examine legislation.
Gov. Cuomo deserves much of the credit for pressuring lawmakers to work with him to reach an agreement. Budgets have been in place by the April 1 start of the fiscal year only seven times since 1975. The state has not had back-to-back on-time budgets since 2005 and 2006 in the administration of Gov. George E. Pataki. The proposal entails several compromises.
Lawmakers managed to restore about $200 million in general school aid funding by taking it from $250 million that the governor had sought for competitive grants for schools. The governor still has $125 million in grant funds to encourage efficiency and reward performance in the coming school year. However, all 700 schools will share in an $800 million increase in education aid totaling more than $21 billion. Funding for community colleges will increase $31 million.