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Keeping the Dream Act alive
The New York Dream Act has been rejected by the State Senate, but that doesn't mean the dream of access to college tuition aid for people brought into the country illegally is dead.
The act, and $25 million to fund it in 2015, are in the Assembly's budget plan. So it's on the table when the governor and legislative leaders get down to high-stakes trading in search of a budget deal before the March 31 deadline. Let's get it done.
Monday's surprise Senate vote, held one day before Dream Act supporters were to travel to Albany to lobby for its passage, was a charade. It served the needs of Senate co-leader Jeffrey Klein, the head of the Independent Democratic Conference that controls the Senate with Republicans. Klein had been taking heat generally for failing to push Democratic priorities to the Senate floor, and specifically for failing to get a vote on the Dream Act. Yet, his critics contend that Klein's timing was designed to have the act fail since two Democrats, including Brooklyn's Simcha Fedler who caucuses with the GOP, weren't on board.
Bringing the Dream Act to the Senate floor also provided election-year political cover for Republican senators. It gave them the opportunity to make speeches about how wrong it was to extend access to the state's Tuition Assistance Plan and its tax-free 529 College Savings Program to those who are here illegally but attended high school in New York and applied for legal status.
Our best gloss on that move is the hope that the GOP will approve the Dream Act as long as it is buried in the overall budget while touting their votes Monday against the specific measure.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who said he would sign the act if it passed, expressed disappointment Tuesday that the Senate "denied thousands of hardworking and high-achieving students equal access to higher education and the opportunity that comes with it."
He now has a second chance. Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver must do what it takes to keep the dream alive.