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Early budget passed

Legislators in Albany – in what is usually a long delayed process – passed Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $132.5 billion state budget deal before the April 1 deadline.

The package hammered out between Cuomo and the legislature closes a $10 billion deficit without raising taxes or borrowing money. In last minute negotiations, state officials and Cuomo reportedly agreed on how to divide $230 million in restorations of base operating aid for school districts: New York City schools will get $51 million, Long Island schools will get $45 million and upstate schools will get $134 million. The total budget cuts to school aid remains historic at $697 million.

While the budget addresses sensitive issues like $22.4 million to keep senior centers open, Mayor Michael Bloomberg says that the city is being shortchanged $600 million, forcing his hand in tough spending decisions. Without additional funding, Bloomberg may have to lay off 4,700 teachers.

“We urged the Governor and State Legislature to adopt a budget that treats New York City equitably and provides the mandate relief and reform that would allow us to absorb the state’s heavy cuts,” said Bloomberg. “This budget agreement appears to fail on both counts, and worse, it passes heavy new costs down to the city . . . The final budget still cuts New York City more than ever before. The restorations are merely a fraction of the $600 million necessary to avoid additional layoffs and cuts in the city’s budget – beyond what was announced in February – for the upcoming fiscal year.”

Some key elements of the budget agreement include a $170 million slash of the court system budget, $86 million restored to the State University of New York, City University of New York (CUNY) and community colleges, the elimination of 3,700 prison beds in yet to be named prisons, $22 million in restorations to prescription subsidies for the elderly and funding for New York City’s senior centers who were at risk for closure.

The decision comes on the heels of rallies borowide in an effort to keep senior centers open.

“Very difficult choices had to be made to close a $10 billion deficit, but we convinced Governor Cuomo to add restorations to the EPIC senior drug program, senior center funding and provisions for a living wage for home care workers as well as partial restoration of education funding,” said Assemblymember Margaret Markey.

According to Peter Smergut of Life’s WORC, an organization dedicated to those with autism and developmental disabilities, originally anticipated cuts of an average of 5 to 6 percent to the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities will be significantly lower at only 3 percent. Cuomo’s plan to lay off 9,800 state workers was left indefinite.

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