New York’s legislative leaders said after closed-door negotiations Friday with Gov. Andrew Cuomo that they will restore some of the school funding Cuomo proposed cutting from the state budget.
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said $250 million will be restored in the budget expected to be settled within days. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said in a separate interview that number wasn’t accurate. He called the restoration “significant,” but wouldn’t say whether it would be higher or lower than Skelos’ figure.
“Until you have total agreement, you have no agreement,” Cuomo said at the end of a day of negotiations. “That’s how this works. And we don’t have an agreement.”
The Democratic governor proposed a $1.5 billion reduction in school aid, equal to about a 7.3 percent cut. Even if the Legislature’s position holds, the result would be a historic cut for public schools.
“That will mean a pink slip epidemic in our schools,” said Billy Easton of the Alliance for Quality Education, which led opposition to Cuomo’s proposal. School advocates, including teachers unions and administrators, pushed for a temporary income tax surcharge on millionaires to restore $700 million.
Skelos and Cuomo strongly opposed that proposal as sending the wrong message to employers and a threat to drive more wealthy New Yorkers out of the state.
Cuomo said the cut could be weathered without losing jobs if districts use reserves and attack waste and fraud.
Easton said news of the restoration is “a sad outcome for students and a happy day for the millionaire political donors who are partnering with Governor Cuomo and Senator Skelos.”
Skelos, a Nassau County Republican, said the school aid element of the $132 billion budget is “pretty much closed down.” He has predicted a conceptual agreement on the budget would happen Friday. School aid is traditionally the most contentious issue in budget talks.
The budget is due April 1, but the printing of massive budget bills would require agreement over the weekend or early next week for a budget to be adopted on time.
“I think we’re very close,” Silver said of the overall budget negotiations. “I don’t believe we have a conceptual agreement, yet.”
Cuomo has proposed a $132.5 billion budget that would cut $3.7 billion in spending to help deal with a $10 billion deficit.
Albany hasn’t seen an early budget — one adopted before March 31 — since 1983. That was Gov. Mario Cuomo’s first budget. Twenty-seven of the last 36 have been late.
By MICHAEL GORMLEY,Associated Press
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.