The total budget is $137 billion

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ALBANY Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday called for a property-tax freeze for homeowners with incomes under $500,000, a 3.8 percent increase in school aid and a five-year plan to fund pre-kindergarten statewide.

The proposals were part of Cuomo's $137 billion budget proposal for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which starts April 1.

"If the government works right, the budget is an easy process," Cuomo said. "This year is relatively simple and straightforward."

The budget included a two-year plan to provide $2 billion in tax breaks to homeowners and businesses and close a $1.7 billion deficit by limiting state spending to less than 1.7 percent.

Cuomo estimated his plan would create a $500 million surplus this year that would grow to $2 billion in two years. The surplus would fund Cuomo's initiatives as he seeks a second term in November.

Including federal aid, state spending would increase 1.3 percent.

Cuomo has been under pressure from New York City lawmakers and Mayor Bill de Blasio to allow the city to raise income taxes on the rich to fund pre-kindergarten for four-year-old students.

Cuomo has not backed the tax increase and instead called for $1.5 billion in state funding over five years to fund the program statewide. It would include $100 million and grow by at least $100 million each year.

Education groups want Cuomo to increase state aid for schools by at least 6 percent for the fiscal year that starts April 1.

Cuomo's budget proposal will head to the state Legislature for approval. They have until March 31 to approve or modify the spending plan.

They have passed an on-time budget for the past three years after struggling for decades to get an on-time deal. In 2010, budget talks went on until August, a few days shy of the record set in 2004.

Cuomo made limiting property taxes a key plank of his budget proposal. New York has among the highest property taxes in the nation.

Property taxes would be frozen for two years, costing the state $400 million in the first year and $976 million in the second year.

In order to get a property-tax freeze in the second year, local governments and schools would need to implement a plan to save at least 1 percent in the tax levy. The savings would need to grow by 1 percent in each of the subsequent years.

"When you hear people complain, they complain about the property tax," Cuomo said.

In the 2015-16 fiscal year, the state would begin to implement a plan to tie property taxes to household incomes.

When fully phased in over three years, it would help 1.9 million homeowners with an average annual tax break of $500, Cuomo's budget documents show.

Cuomo's proposal Tuesday included a plan to revamp the state's brownfield cleanup program, an oft-criticized tax credit to developers who clean and build on contaminated sites.

The brownfield program, which is set to expire next year, would be extended for 10 years under the Cuomo plan.

Cuomo's budget will also add $4 million to the state's Environmental Protection Fund, which provides grants for projects that cut down on pollution and improve parks and open space. The fund would increase to $157 million, up from the current year's $153 million.

JSPECTOR@Gannett.com

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