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Cuomo warns against ‘dramatic’ increases in state budget

Karen DeWitt

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is warning that the state might not be able to add more money for schools this year because of uncertainties in Washington over federal funding.

Just days before the state budget is due, Cuomo is urging the state Legislature to pull back on additional spending for school districts beyond the $1 billion increase he’s already proposed, saying there’s too much uncertainty over federal funding right now.

“If we commit money to a school district, then I want to live up to that commitment,” said Cuomo. “I don’t want that school district being put into a state of chaos.”

Cuomo said “modest” increases are OK, but “dramatic” increases are not.

The governor said he believes the state can enact a new plan to offer free tuition at public colleges and universities; he said the price tag of $163 million is just a fraction of the $160 billion spending plan.

And Cuomo announced he’ll add $55 million in the budget to help direct care workers who work with the developmentally disabled finance mandatory increases in the minimum wage.

Cuomo said the other alternative is to pass a budget extender for as long as six months and wait to see what happens in Washington.

The governor told reporters that there was "more than a conceptual agreement" on two non-spending items in the budget: raising the age when teens can be treated as adult offenders in the prison and court systems to 18, and allowing ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft to operate outside of New York City.

But Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who met privately with Cuomo on Tuesday afternoon, denied that there were agreements, saying everything in the budget is "interconnected."

Heastie did not say whether he agrees with the governor’s proposal to limit school aid spending or whether the Assembly would sign on to a budget extender until more is known about potential federal cuts.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan says he can’t confirm that there are any agreements on the budget or the related items.

The pro school funding group Alliance for Quality Education struck back against the governor’s proposed limits on education funding this year , accusing Cuomo of using President Trump as an “excuse” to reduce school aid.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.