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NY Senate leadership feeling pressure over budget

Wednesday, March 12, 2014
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— Labor unions and advocacy groups intensified their lobbying of the state Senate leadership Wednesday to include in its budget resolutions the Dream Act and public campaign financing as the Democrat-controlled Assembly considered the proposals.

The New York Dream Act would allow students in the country illegally to access to state tuition assistance programs. Senate Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein and the rest of the members of the breakaway Democratic conference, who control the Senate with the Republicans, support the measure. But it's opposed by Senate Republicans and hasn't come to the floor for a vote.

Lucia Gomez, executive director of the immigration advocacy group La Fuente, said union and advocacy groups were in Albany on Wednesday pressuring Klein to negotiate the Dream Act into the state budget.

"We don't want to see Klein using this to get favor from the progressive end. He has to do something. He hasn't been able to deliver," Gomez said.

A spokesman for the Senate Republicans emerged from a closed-door meeting Wednesday afternoon to tell reporters that there hasn't yet been an agreement with the breakaway Democrats on the one-house budget proposal.

The lobbying comes as Senate Republicans and the breakaway Democrats tried to agree on a fiscal plan that will outline that chamber's positions in budget negotiations. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders face an April 1 deadline to finalize a spending plan.

The Dream Act and a public campaign financing measure are included in the Assembly budget resolution, which was being debated Wednesday.

The Assembly budget measure also would give New York City the authority to impose an income tax surcharge on people earning more than $500,000 to fund universal pre-kindergarten — a provision Mayor Bill de Blasio supports. Cuomo and Senate Republicans oppose the tax increase and want to fund statewide pre-K with existing funds.

Assembly budget bills include a provision for legalizing medical marijuana in New York, $22.2 billion in school aid and a tax relief package that has some key differences from the one Cuomo included in his budget proposal last month.

The Assembly rejected Cuomo's proposed "freeze" on property taxes through rebates to homeowners in jurisdictions that meet cost-cutting and shared-services goals. Instead, they propose a $1.1 billion "circuit breaker" that takes into account property tax burdens relative to homeowner income. Homeowners earning less than $200,000 a year would be eligible, under the Assembly proposal.

The Assembly plan doesn't include Cuomo's plan to lower New York's estate tax rate, but they would raise the threshold from the current $1 million to $3 million. Cuomo wants to raise it to the federal threshold of $5.34 million.

 
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