Cuomo's budget highlights tax relief, education, healthcare

By Kelly McCarthy

Cuomo's budget highlights tax relief, education, healthcare

January 21, 2014 Updated Jan 22, 2014 at 1:02 AM EDT

Albany, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined his financial agenda in his fourth state budget and showed his spending priorities for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

The 2014-2015 spending plan is little more than $137 billion. That's an increase of nearly 1.3 percent -- or approximately $2 billion -- from last year's budget. It also projects a $300 million surplus this year.

As indicated in his State of the State Address given earlier this month, Cuomo said he would lower taxes. On Tuesday, he discussed how he'd pay for it.

Part of Cuomo's tax package includes a lower corporate tax rate, a tax credit for Upstate manufactures and a property tax freeze for some eligible residents.

Cuomo said focusing on tax relief is part of his economic growth strategy. Much of the state's spending will shrink if local municipalities take part in the property tax freeze that pushes for shared services.

In a five-year plan, Cuomo predicts local governments could lower costs by 3 percent.

"These would be county-wide shared services or consolidation plans," Cuomo said, "Which would save in the aggregate 1 percent per year of the total tax levy, not the operating budget, the total tax levy for three years."

Cuomo would increase education aid by 3.8 percent, providing nearly $22 billion to New York's school districts.

He's pushing for students to spend more time in the classroom. That includes statewide universal pre-kindergarten and statewide after school programs.

Cuomo said he supports the Common Core agenda, but its management by the Board of Regents is flawed. His budget proposes to set up a reform panel with education experts and members of the legislature.

"Let's get recommendations for corrective action by the end of this session," Cuomo said, "Let's pass a package by the end of this session, and let's end the anxiety that parents, and students and teachers are feeling all across this state."

Cuomo has included a $2 billion smart schools initiative, but that must be voted on in November. The smart schools initiative increases technology for schools and communities including pre-K and after school programs.

Cuomo mentions in the proposed budget how New York state's healthcare reform has come a long way, but there are still some challenges that need to be fixed through funding.

The healthcare exchange has signed up nearly 330,000 New Yorkers. Cuomo said so far, health care reform has saved $34 billion. That's $17 billion for the state, and $17 billion for the federal government.

Last year, the state requested a $10 billion federal Medicaid waiver. The waiver would allow for some of those savings to be used toward more improvements to the health care system.

"We requested a $10 billion waiver back in 2012 because we have challenges," Cuomo said, "We're converting the system, and we're making serious changes in the system, but we need funding to enact those changes that are allowing us to the save the money in the first place."

Cuomo is once again calling for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to grant New York state the waiver. The medicaid waiver will be used to keep hospitals that need upgrades, specifically in the New York City area, open to patients.

The budget will now go to the state legislature for approval. The budget is due on April 1.

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