Spin Cycle

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In election year, Cuomo proposes cautious growth

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, in a re-election year, proposed a state budget Tuesday that would cut $489 million worth of business taxes, increase spending on Medicaid and on K-12 schools by about 4 percent, but decrease spending at state universities and community colleges.

The governor proposed an overall budget of $137.2 billion, an increase of 1.3 percent over last year. If federal aid for Superstorm Sandy recovery is included, the budget swells to $142.1 billion.

  Cuomo backloads most of the tax cuts and high-profile spending initiatives – such as expanding prekindergarten – meaning they won’t take effect in 2014 but in later years.

The Democrat’s spending plan proposed funding full-day prekindergarten statewide, though without a dedicated tax to support the initiative. On education, he also called for a review of the controversial Common Core academic standards, something many rank-and-file legislators have demanded.

The governor proposed public financing of political campaigns as a way to curb corruption. But he gave no estimated spending amount for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which begins April 1, and didn’t outline a way to pay for it. He did recommend boosting spending at the state Board of Elections, hiring 11 additional staff to monitor campaign-finance and other laws. Reiterating an idea that failed last year, he also proposed giving him to appoint a special elections-law counsel to investigate violations.

Cuomo has rolled out most of these initiatives over the past few months, including his tax cut proposal – which banks on future year surpluses.

He has said he wants to cut taxes $2 billion. But less than 25 percent of those savings would occur this fiscal year. Most would be pushed off for at least a year.

He suggested cutting the rate on estate taxes, which would save residents about $33 million this year.

But plans to reduce the corporate tax rate and taxes on manufacturers wouldn’t kick in till next year.

He also proposed offering an income-tax credit as a way to offset property-tax increases – Cuomo billed it as a property-tax freeze. But to be eligible, homeowners have to reside in municipalities that agree to keep spending hikes below the state’s 2 percent property-tax cap and take steps to consolidate services. The governor budgeted $400 million for homeowner savings this year and $976 million next year.

The governor’s office forecast the state will have about a $500 million surplus this year. He has said the surplus could be $2 billion in 2017 if spending levels are kept in check.

The governor would slightly cut the operating budgets of the State University of New York (by 0.2 percent), the City University of New York (0.2 percent) and community colleges (0.3 percent).

Cuomo and all 213 seats in the state Legislature are up for re-election in November.
 

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