ALBANY The State of the State address, for the second year in a row, was combined with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal announcement on Wednesday, Jan. 13.
While standing under the words “Built to Lead,” Cuomo unveiled proposals to address failing infrastructure, provide tax cuts to small businesses and introduce paid family leave. He described an ambitious environmental agenda, announced his intention to establish an Office of Independent Special Counsel to prosecute law enforcement officers, and said that he would close the LLC loophole and increase transparency in campaign finance.
He also announced that he would increase funding to state schools by $2.1 billion over the next two years-and education advocates are not happy. Here in Albany County, school districts in North Colonie, Guilderland and Green Island will actually see modest reductions in state aid under the governor’s plan.
“Typically what the governor does is he talks about how much education aid is being increased,” said local Assemblyman Phil Steck (D-110). “But he neglects to mention that there was an agreement prior to the 2008 financial crisis regarding what would be necessary to bring all of our school districts up to full funding.”
The decision is the State Education Budget and Reform Act that was enacted in 2007, after years of litigation originating in New York City, during which the State Supreme Court found the state funding system to be unconstitutional, which resulted in a statewide coalition demanding adequate funding for public schools. The legislation promised to raise state “foundation aid” by $7 billion in the 2010-11 budget year and allocate the funds based solely on need. Then the national economy tanked and, by 2010, New York state was facing a $10 billion budget deficit. The solution, lawmakers decided, was to divide the shortfall among the state’s school districts, basing the amount taken on a formula designed to insulate the poorest districts. Rather than see aid increase to levels that had been deemed merely adequate, every school district across the state was forced to deal with an even tighter budget.