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NY State legislators reach budget deal

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and leaders in Albany

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and leaders in Albany have reached a budget deal that includes $1.1 billion for education. The governor is seen here on July 18, 2013. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr., File

With statewide elections looming, lawmakers have agreed to a state budget that will boost education spending by $1.1 billion, or 5 percent, for the 2014-15 fiscal year -- the most generous single-year increase in recent years.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislators said Saturday that they signed off on a deal and began printing budget bills just before midnight Friday. Voting on the budget by rank-and-file legislators likely would begin Monday -- technically, the budget is supposed to be enacted by midnight that night to be considered "on time."

The budget would total $138 billion, a 2 percent increase over last year.

"It's a piece of work that the people of the state can be proud," the governor declared in a media conference call Saturday.

State legislators added about $300 million more in state education aid than Cuomo proposed in January, after lengthy battles over related issues of charter schools, prekindergarten and discretionary spending funds, among other times.

"It's a very generous increase," the governor said.

Much of the broad details about school spending had been agreed to days before. Of the $1.1 billion addition, $300 million will be allocated to expand prekindergarten in New York City and $40 million to expand prekindergarten on Long Island and upstate, legislators said.

Other key elements of the package included:

- Offering a property-tax rebate to homeowners whose school districts and local governments keep property tax growth below the state's 2 percent cap and take steps to share services or consolidate with neighboring governments. Cuomo said the rebate would have the practical effect of "freezing" property taxes.

-- Delaying the use of Common Core tests to evaluate students -- but not teachers.

-- Putting before voters this fall a $2 billion education bond act. If approved, the money would be spent on school facilities, computers and other technology.

-- Implementing a limited public-campaign financing experiment but using taxpayers' money for the state comptroller's office, beefing up the state Board of Elections and effectively decommissioning Cuomo's "Moreland Commission," which was investigating legislators' compliance with campaign-finance laws.

-- Eliminating business taxes on manufacturers, reducing a surcharge on gas and electric bills known as 18-A, and reducing estate taxes.

Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said in statement that the bipartisan budget "delivers additional property tax relief to hardworking taxpayers, reduces costs for businesses so they can create new jobs and gives students the tools they need to receive a first-class education."

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