Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Spitzer, Legislature strike tentative budget deal

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Compromise is the order of the day here.........job well done......almost............andy

Albany - WABC, March 27, 2007) - New York state Governor Eliot Spitzer and Legislative leaders tentatively agreed on Tuesday night to a budget of more than $121 billion that would add about $1 billion in total state and federal spending, but is expected to result in a spending plan passed by Sunday's start of the fiscal year.
The agreement would:
Restore more than $350 million in Spitzer's $1.3 billion in proposed health care cuts including funds hospitals and nursing homes said they needed to avoid layoffs. But the deal would include $1 billion in cuts and preserve Spitzer's plan to dramatically reduce the annual growth in Medicaid costs.
Add $500 million to education, including more money to Long Island school districts and increased operating aid for districts statewide. The number of schools that would get the minimum 3 percent increase in aid would drop from 303 school districts out of the state's 700 districts to 170 school districts. So under the plan, more districts would get larger boosts in aid with high-needs, urban schools getting the largest increases. That would raise the current school aid total of $17 billion by nearly $2 billion.
Provide $1.3 billion in property tax breaks that Spitzer sought, but in the form of direct rebate checks to property taxpayers sought by the Senate's Republican majority. Those checks would amount to hundreds of dollars per taxpayer.
Ease up on Spitzer's plan to collect $500 million by closing what he called a tax loophole enjoyed by a few major corporations. Business leaders argued that would hurt New York businesses and Tuesday's tentative agreement would offset that bite with certain unnamed business tax reductions.
Increase spending over Spitzer's $120.6 billion proposal in January by about $1 billion in state and federal funds, or about $800 million in state spending alone. That includes $575 million in additional revenue projected after Spitzer's Jan. 31 proposal.
The property tax cut package is about $200 million less than Spitzer proposed for the first year of his $6 billion property tax cut, but that "was scaled back to make the (budget) pieces fit," he said.
The tentative 2007-08 deal must be approved by the Assembly and Senate and voted into budget bills by Saturday to be in place for the start of the fiscal year.
Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno cautioned that tentative agreements have fallen apart before. He also said many other smaller issues haven't been settled because Spitzer and leaders have focused on the major areas of education, health care spending and tax cuts.
"If we can get out the conceptual agreement, there are still an awful lot of things that have to fall into place in order to get a budget," Bruno said. "You have to have three-way agreement that once you've talked about appears in bill form that you can take to the floor. Things have unraveled because when you speak conceptually, then you try to get that agreement on paper, it comes out three different ways and you don't have an agreement. I've seen that happen. We announced a conceptual agreement once and we did the budget in July because it unraveled."
Spitzer agreed with Bruno: "There's always the possibility that things could go amiss," Spitzer said. "If it were easy then it would be done faster, sooner and it wouldn't be as much fun."
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said joint legislative conference committee will begin meeting early Wednesday to put the concept into budget bills. "I think it's a terrific agreement," Silver said. "Hopefully we can do it on time."
He said Spitzer adopted the Assembly's years-old proposal to base school aid increases on need, rather than the share of state enrollment.
Spitzer emphasized the spending reforms agreed to will help control spending for coming years and will be built upon in subsequent budgets. "I think we've come very far in the context of what is clearly going to be a multiyear effort to turn the ship of state," Spitzer said, referring to "poor decision making" in past years. "No one should think this will happen in one budget cycle."
The tentative deal received some support from one element of the health care industry that was critical of Spitzer's cuts.
(Copyright 2007 WABC-TV)

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