ALBANY New York lawmakers passed the state's fourth consecutive on-time budget late Monday, with the Assembly passing the spending plan's final piece with 45 minutes to spare.
Both the Senate and the Assembly passed the $137.9 billion budget over a period of more than 12 hours Monday, enacting a plan that implements a $1.5 billion property-tax rebate program, boosts education aid by $1.1 billion and delays aspects of the Common Core education standards.
Lawmakers faced a midnight deadline to put a spending plan in place, with the state's fiscal year beginning Tuesday. Its passage gives New York its fourth-straight on-time budget for the first time since the mid-1970s.
"This budget maintains the fiscal discipline that has characterized the last three years of progress by holding the growth in spending below two percent, while also making broad tax cuts that will help homeowners and businesses thrive," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement late Monday.
The Legislature was widely expected to pass the budget Monday after legislative leaders and Cuomo reached an agreement on the spending plan over the weekend. Cuomo waived a three-day waiting period for two of the 10 budget bills in order to ensure an on-time passage.
The newly enacted budget includes $340 million for an expansion of pre-kindergarten, with $300 million flagged for New York City and the rest for districts in other parts of the state. It also calls for two annual rebate checks -- totaling up to 2 percent of a locality's tax levy -- to homeowners if their local governments and school district stays within the property-tax cap and, in year two, puts together a plan to cut costs.
It also would enact a series of tougher anti-bribery laws and implement a publicly funded matching system for small campaign donations in the state comptroller's race this year. But Cuomo said Saturday he would dissolve his Moreland Commission – a panel of district attorneys and law enforcement officials that had been investigating public corruption in the Legislature -- if the budget's ethics package is passed.
Eight budget bills were introduced by the end of Friday, which made them eligible for a vote Monday after the mandatory three-day aging period.
The remaining two bills -- which enact the state's education and health plans -- were introduced early Saturday, but Cuomo on Monday granted a "message of necessity" to allow for an immediate vote.
The Senate passed its last budget bill around 10:15 p.m., with the Assembly following about an hour later.
"Congratulations," Senate Deputy Republican Leader Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, said on the Senate floor. "We, at least, have done our job and the budget is complete."
The budget passed with largely bipartisan support in the Senate, with some bills passing unanimously and others drawing as many as eight "no" votes in the 63-seat chamber.
Sen. Thomas O'Mara, R-Big Flats, Chemung County, said the budget's tax-cut package, which also cuts taxes for manufacturers and corporations, needs to be coupled with more mandate relief for local governments. But he said he would vote for the budget.
"It's a compromise," O'Mara said on the Senate floor. "It's a step in the right direction."
Both the Assembly's Republican minority and the Senate Democratic Conference attempted numerous "hostile amendments" during the vote -- a maneuver that would allow an attachment to alter the budget bills. An amendment by Senate Democrats that would have placed a firm moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas was ruled non-germane, and an attempt to force its consideration fell two votes short.
Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, Ontario County, said the budget deal resulted in "mixed emotions and missed opportunities."
"We could have done better," Kolb said. "The $137.9 billion spending plan does contain positive programs that will benefit New Yorkers. But despite the chance to make important changes in several areas, many items fell short of expectations or were excluded from the final agreement."
Sen. George Latimer, D-Rye, Westchester County, praised some of the budget's provisions related to the Common Core, the tougher education standards being implemented in New York schools.
The budget would keep schools from using Common Core-based test scores as the sole reason for promoting or placing an elementary school student, while those tests issued over the next two years will be kept off students' transcripts.
It would also prohibit the state from sending identifiable student information to private third parties like inBloom Inc., which had been working with the state Education Department to create a statewide database of student information.
"Most importantly on this, I think this budget articulates the concern that we have over data privacy and data collection," Latimer said. "We want proper data that helps teachers teach. We do not want something intrusive."