by Jeremy Moule
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo released his $136.5 billion 2013 to 2014 budget proposal this afternoon. He said the budget closes a $1.3 billion gap and doesn't include any new taxes. It also includes a boost in the minimum wage, from $7.25 to $8.75 an hour.
Cuomo said the budget includes a 4.4 percent increase — $889 million — in education aid, and that much of that aid will be directed to high-needs districts. The budget also includes $20 million for school districts to extend school days or years and $25 million toward full-day pre-kindergarten programs in less wealthy school districts.
The budget proposal includes funding for several economic development programs. It has money for the state to start the Innovations Hot Spots program, which will essentially target 10 areas to serve as high-tech incubators. Along with that program, the budget includes $50 million for a venture capital fund to encourage start-up businesses based on innovative research. It funds new initiatives for job training, a third round of regional economic development council funding, and a five-year extension of a tax credit for rehabbing historic commercial properties.
Cuomo's proposed plan also includes an expansion of the Environmental Protection Fund, which provides money for a variety of efforts ranging from open space preservation to recycling programs. The budget calls for a $19 million increase in the fund, to $153 million. Much of that money will come from unclaimed bottle deposits, while the rest will come from more vigorous enforcement, according to the state Division of the Budget's website.