ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday that he is open to restoring aid to municipalities that he cut in his January budget after local mayors pressed him for help.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in his $175.2 billion budget proposal to the State Legislature was his $19 million cut in Aid and Incentives to Municipalities. In Albany, most saw this as a traditional state budget maneuver in which a governor balances his proposal by making cuts he knows the legislature will be pressured to restore in the horse-trading of negotiations.
But this time mayors from around the state descended on Cuomo and prompted him to make a rare public move off the position in his budget.
“We want to restore AIM,” Cuomo said. But “you have to cut somewhere.”
“I have heard from a number of mayors,” Cuomo said. “They made a very strong case against that cut, although it was a very small amount.”
Cuomo said he only cut AIM to municipalities that received, on average, about $14,000 in aid. He said he thought the small amount wouldn’t be disruptive to local budgets, but mayors told him he was wrong.
Local officials praised the governor’s reconsideration of the funding cuts.
“I am very encouraged Governor Cuomo is considering a restoration of these critical funds,” Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen wrote in a statement.
Gillen was in Albany Monday pressing state lawmakers on the issue, as was Freeport Village Mayor Robert Kennedy.
“It would devastate the village's budget should they take that $1 million away,” Kennedy said of his village’s annual share of the AIM funding. “I’d like to thank him for reconsidering it.”
Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, whose town faces a loss of $1.8 million, said the town would have to make “some serious cuts” if the AIM funds are not restored. The town has frozen new hiring and has contemplated cuts to other programs in case AIM funding is eliminated, he said.
“When you’re cutting all the funding for all the towns on Long Island and throughout the state, and most of the villages, and you’re not cutting aid for the cities, not fair,” Romaine said Monday. “All I’m trying to do is ensure that we are treated fairly.”
With Jesse Coburn, Carl MacGowan