No tax increases, layoffs in Cuomo’s $143B budget

ALBANY (AP) - Gov. Andrew Cuomo is sending a nearly $143 billion budget without tax increases or layoffs to the state Legislature.

The 2013-14 budget proposal introduced Tuesday would be a 5 percent increase over the current spending plan when federal aid for recovery from Superstorm Sandy is included. Without the anticipated federal disaster aid, however, Cuomo’s budget proposal increases by less than 2 percent. It includes several increased fees and other small revenue raisers.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, however, is already warning that tax revenues in the current $134 billion budget are failing to meet expectations in a slow economic recovery with high unemployment.

Cuomo’s proposal would increase school aid by 4.4 percent and include funding for longer school days while closing a $1.3 billion deficit.

He also wants to fund marketing programs, duty-free shops for New York products and jobs programs aimed at economically struggling upstate communities. Colleges would provide training needed by local businesses while helping to develop new industries.

Cuomo included ways to use a total of $30 billion over several years in anticipated federal funding to restore communities in New York City and on Long Island devastated by Sandy. In a plea to salve a traditional upstate-downstate rift, he plans to use some aid for upstate communities still recovering from the remnants of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011.

Cuomo described the state far differently than in his rousing State of the State pep talk Jan. 9. On Tuesday, he said the state has dug itself out of fiscal and political crisis, only to face another one after Sandy hit amid a slow economic recovery.

“The bad news is we have a lot of work to do,” the Democratic governor said Tuesday in Albany. “The good news is we have shown in the past two years an amazing ability to do what they said we couldn’t do.”

Cuomo’s numbers add up, said Elizabeth Lynam of the independent Citizens Budget Commission.

“He’s funded a number of initiatives in a pretty responsible framework and spending isn’t going up by too much,” Lynam said in an interview.

Some of the creative ways of paying for big-ticket proposals includes spreading out costs of economic development aid over several years and some borrowing that remains just under the state’s debt limit. The state spends about $6 billion a year on debt.

Cuomo’s proposal now goes to the Legislature for hearings. Cuomo and legislative leaders will soon meet behind closed doors to negotiate a final plan by the April 1 start of the fiscal year. In most years, the Legislature alters a governor’s budget by less than 1 percent, though it often involves the areas most critical to New Yorkers including education, taxes and health care.

“I think the fact of no new taxes is great,” said Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos of Long Island. He hopes to add tax breaks for employers into the final budget. “I don’t see anything that’s a huge stumbling block right now.”

Skelos shares majority of the Senate with the Independent Democratic Conference for the first time. Any budget deal with the Senate will require agreement by Republican and IDC leaders.

“Once again, the governor has shown we can’t spend money that we don’t have,” Sen. Jeffrey Klein, a Bronx-Westchester Democrat who leads the IDC. He strongly supports Cuomo’s proposal to raise the minimum wage to $8.75 an hour, from $7.25.

“It’s very refreshing to see another budget without raising taxes,” Klein added.

It was Cuomo’s third straight pledge against raising taxes. He and Senate Republicans broke that promise in December 2011 by enacting $1.9 billion in income taxes aimed at millionaires that continues to help balance the state budget.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had no immediate comment.

Cuomo’s budget would fund longer school days and school years for school districts that choose to increase instruction time by at least 25 percent.

State aid to municipalities outside New York City wouldn’t increase at a time when many counties and smaller local governments worry about insolvency amid rising costs and shrinking tax bases. But Cuomo is offering a special task force to provide advice to local officials and a borrowing plan to help municipalities survive without further burdening taxpayers. Cuomo would allow local governments to borrow against future savings under the less expensive pension plan adopted a year ago for new hires.

The massive budget will touch New Yorkers in many smaller ways.

Cuomo proposes suspending the driver’s licenses of people with big, overdue tax bills. He also would make it harder to plea down some speeding charges to avoid bigger fines and insurance premium increases - a process he says costs $58 million a year and makes roads unsafe.

Cuomo proposed $35.9 million to implement key components of the nation’s toughest gun control measure adopted last week, which was fueled by the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., last month. It includes registration of assault weapons, re-registering of pistol permits, new databases to keep track of guns and defensive and safety measures at schools, including at entrances.


Associated Press writers Michael Virtanen and Michael Hill contributed to this report from Albany.

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