DeFrancisco says this year's state budget toughest one to pass on time in 5 years

Apr 2, 2015

Some observers of this year's state budget negotiations in Albany thought that the process was more complicated than in recent years. And they're not alone. Syracuse-area state Sen. John DeFrancisco says it's amazing the budget ever got done on time.

As the chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, DeFrancisco was intimately involved in the budget talks. The Republican says this year was different because Gov. Andrew Cuomo added legislation like education and ethics reform to the state spending plan.

"This was a difficult budget to complete on time because there were so many items that were added by the governor that really have nothing to do with the budget, but are really policy changes he wanted to make," said DeFrancisco.

DeFrancisco notes that this is the first year since the governor has been in office that so many complicated policy issues were attached to the state spending plan.

"It was one of the toughest ones. It was definitely the toughest in the last five years, because of those ancillary issues."

But DeFrancisco says the education funding and reforms the legislature passed is basically a good plan. Many have criticized Cuomo for making teacher tenure more difficult and changing the teacher evaluation system. But the senator esays the end result was better than what the governor proposed.

"The fact of the matter is, we did not go along with his proposals,” said DeFrancisco. “We were able to negotiate changes in them that I think are good and resulted in $1.4 billion in new revenue to the schools around the state, which is not only good for the kids, but helps reduce the pressure on raising property taxes."

In an interview with the Associated Press on Wednesday, Cuomo called the budget the "most pro-teacher" ever. Teacher's unions fought bitterly against the governor's proposals.

DeFrancisco also says there is much in the $142 billion budget that is good for central and northern New York.

Centro will receive a little more than $4 million from an increase in upstate transit funding. That amount allows the central New York bus service to scrap a plan that would have cut back on night and weekend service.

The New York State Fair will receive $50 million. And money was also approved for Auburn Community Hospital and for more agriculture funding.

Some of the big policy item the governor and others had hoped would be included in the budget were dropped -- like the Dream Act and raising the minimum wage. Defrancisco says he expects those proposals to be discussed further in the rest of this year's legislative session, which is completed at the end of June.

Other items like the "raise the age" plan were funded in this year’s budget, but details still need to be worked out. The senator says money was allocated to plans to raise the age that juveniles in the criminal justice system are treated as adults, which is currently 16 in New York State.