24 Mar Assembly Expected To Restore Some School AidMarch 24, 2010
By: Joseph SpectorSource: The Journal News
Budget negotiations continued Tuesday as the state Assembly vowed to restore some aid to schools that Gov. David Paterson and Senate Democrats have sought to cut.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, said Assembly Democrats will seek to add back some of the $1.4 billion in state aid that Paterson proposed to cut in the 2010-11 budget proposal. On Monday, Senate Democrats said they would go along with the school cuts.
Assembly Democrats are expected to pass a budget resolution on W ednesday that restores about $600 million to education, officials said.
“We have always stood for education, and in this difficult year we believe there has to be a restoration of some magnitude to education,” said Silver, who would not confirm a dollar amount.
The state budget year begins April 1, and lawmakers are scrambling to try to meet the deadline this week. They start a 10-day break Monday because it’s a holiday week.
The proposal by Assembly Democrats would still require agreement from the Senate and Paterson. Legislative leaders and Paterson met privately at the governor’s mansion Tuesday to continue negotiations.
The Assembly is also expected to reject a Paterson proposal to sell wine in grocery stores and tax soda, as has the Senate.
Unlike Senate Democrats, though, Assembly Democrats appear to be looking at some borrowing to help close a $9.2 billion budget gap for the 2010-11 fiscal year.
Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch has recommended the state borrow up to $2 billion a year for the next several years to help balance the state’s budget.
But some Assembly Democrats said the state shouldn’t borrow. A report last week by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found New York’s debt per capita is three times the national median.
Assemblyman David Koon, D-Perinton, Monroe County, said, “I am totally against borrowing any more money in this state. We’ve got to cut spending of government not borrow more money to keep things going here. We have to make the tough decision.”
School groups said they would be pleased to have some funding restored, but they would still face an $800 million cut. Groups have estimate d schools would have to lay off more than 14,000 teachers if the $1.4 billion in cuts were adopted.
The cuts, even with some restorations, would “dramatically undercut the quality of education in our schools,” said Billy Easton, executive director of Alliance for Quality Education.
To raise about $1 billion, three Democratic Assembly members—Sam Hoyt of Buffalo, Ginny Fields of Suffolk County and Michael Benjamin of the Bronx – said teachers should forego their raises this year.
In a letter to the New York State United Teachers union, the lawmakers said, “This solution alone will help districts avoid draconian layoffs, keep vital services in place for our children and protect programs.”
Richard Iannuzzi, president of NYSUT, said contracts are negotiated by each school district. Moreover, lawmakers should be looking at ways to cut back on the tax breaks given to the wealthy, rather than clamping down on teachers.
If the Assembly members are “serious about addressing the economic crisis, it shouldn’t be on the back of working people,” Iannuzzi said.