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Cuomo: And the deficit is ...

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who rarely gives a speech without PowerPoint, had a broken moment during his speech when he announced the deficit facing the state this year.
The PowerPoint screen flashed up $13 billion to the audience. With Cuomo pausing in his speech, someone corrected to $1.3 billion.
"I wanted to see if you were paying attention. Dean, you can start breathing again,'' Cuomo said to Senate co-leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican.

Cuomo proposes education funding ideas

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Here are the highlights of the governor's education proposals contained in his budget briefing book released this afternoon:

Target School Aid Increases to High-Need School Districts.

The Executive Budget provides a $611 million increase in School Aid for the 2013-14 school year, consistent with the School Aid Growth Cap. Most of the allocated increase is provided to high-need school districts. Of the total increase, $272 million is provided for general support, reflecting the net impact of a $322 million Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) restoration, which is partially supported by a redirection of High Tax Aid. By redirecting High Tax Aid and increasing the GEA restoration, the Executive Budget promotes a more equitable distribution of aid to school districts. Another $289 million supports increased reimbursement in expense-based aid programs (e.g., school construction, pupil transportation, and BOCES) and other miscellaneous aid categories under current law. High-need school districts will receive 75 percent of the 2013-14 allocated increase and 69 percent of total School Aid. Importantly, $50 million will be used for a new round of competitive grants.

Provide Fiscal Stabilization Funding for School Districts in the 2013-14 School Year.

Preschool Special Education

Continue reading "Cuomo proposes education funding ideas" »

Cuomo proposes immediate local pension savings, with higher costs in future

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Here is the governor's new idea for how localities can save on some pension costs taken from his 2013-2014 budget book:


Stable Rate Pension Contribution Option.

Tier VI, enacted last year, is providing pension relief to local government and schools with each new employee hired under the new system. However, these entities continue to face recurring and significant near-term increases in employer contribution rates resulting from the 2008 market crash and the subsequent recession. If faced with continued, unfettered growth in near-term pension costs, some local officials believe that their city, town, village or school will approach functional and fiscal insolvency.

With Tier VI in place, there is now an opportunity to adopt an alternate pension funding mechanism – a Stable Rate Pension Contribution Option to provide local governments and school districts with immediate access to the long-term savings of Tier VI, as well as greater stability.

Local governments and school districts would be given the option to "lock in" long-term, stable rate pension contributions for a period of years determined by the Comptroller and the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) in order to achieve full funding in each system. The proposed stable rates would be 12 percent for the New York State Employees’ Retirement System (ERS), 12.5 percent for TRS, and 18.5 percent for the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS). Absent this option, the system average 2013-14 rates (inclusive of Group Life Insurance) would be 20.9 percent for ERS, 16.5 percent for TRS, and 28.9 percent for PFRS.

These stable rate pension contributions will dramatically reduce near-term payments for employers, but will require higher than normal contributions in the latter years. This proposal is fiscally neutral to the retirement funds over the full length of the period.

These immediate and significant savings, combined with the stability offered through this proposal, will provide immediate access to the savings of Tier VI and offer local governments and school districts needed relief, improving their ability to maintain necessary services to their residents and students. Local governments who opt in would avoid significant volatility in contribution rates and be better able to plan for the future.

Cuomo to hold overall state spending under 2 percent growth

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo will, as he vowed, increase overall state aid to education by 4 percent over last year when he unveils his 2013 state budget later this afternoon.

Administration officials said Cuomo’s budget will not include any tax hikes and will keep the general fund budget – the portion of the fiscal plan paid for mostly through state taxes on individuals and companies – to under 2 percent.

The overall budget, called the all-funds portion, will increase considerably, but administration sources said that is because of a big flow of funds from Washington to help pay for Hurricane Sandy reconstruction costs and new federal funding for President Obama’s health insurance program that will, in New York, be administered by the state. When those two major funding sources are taken out, the all-funds budget should be held to about 2 percent, officials said this morning. Officials declined to provide an all-funds spending number.

The budget will also include a tax break to encourage rehabilitation of historic buildings, seen as especially helping downtown areas such as in Buffalo. The governor last month vetoed an historic tax credit bill, saying the issue should be dealt with in the budget. The new plan, the details of which were not revealed, are expected to be less ambitious – less costly – than the Legislature’s bill from last year.

Western New York economic development officials are also awaiting details for how Cuomo will continue to fulfill his vow to set aside $1 billion in special state funding to help with job creation efforts in the Buffalo area.

Related: Expect creativity in Cuomo's 2013 budget 

Four zone chairmen challenge Zellner's reorg plan

By Robert J. McCarthy

Erie County Democrats are fighting and squabbling again.

"What else is new?" you ask.

Not much, really, because a new brouhaha over a headquarters proposal to redraw zone lines in the City of Buffalo is resurrecting the semi-dormant battle between new Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner and his chief nemesis -- Cheektowaga Chairman Frank C. Max Jr.

Continue reading "Four zone chairmen challenge Zellner's reorg plan" »

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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri |

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski |