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State groups respond to Cuomo's budget plan

Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered his annual budget address Tuesday. (File photo)

Reactions are pouring in after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his 2014 budget plan, ranging from praise to criticism.

Business groups are among the happiest so far with the governor's budget. The Business Council of New York swtate, 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 faster, 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,” said Skelos, who predicts another early budget agreement.

But others are far more critical. Education advocates, including Billy Easton of the Alliance for Quality Education, says 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 $1.3 billion more 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 said.

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

For the first time, the governor is also 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 said.

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 slightly more than two months to modify the governor’s budget.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.