Group says Cuomo should ditch tax cuts, boost school funding

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Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2014-15 budget proposal includes some tax cuts for businesses and New York homeowners, but those measures come at the expense of other important programs, says a group of local union leaders, community activists, and faith leaders.

The local coalition is part of a statewide group that’s pushing back against Cuomo’s proposed tax cuts; it held a press conference this afternoon to highlight what its members say are inequities in the proposal. The money that would be lost to the cuts should instead be invested in state programs, particularly education, the coalition members said.

“This budget is one that doesn’t work for all New Yorkers,” said Crescenzo Scipione, who was speaking on behalf of Metro Justice.

The speakers focused on two distinct areas of education: pre-kindergarten through grade 12 and the SUNY-CUNY system. Tom Gillett, staff director for New York State United Teachers’ Rochester region office, said that the governor’s plan to increase education aid by 3.2 percent over last year sounds generous. But it still doesn’t make up for education funding cuts several years ago, he said.

Jim Bearden, a SUNY Geneseo professor, said state legislators developed a funding formula that would distribute state aid fairly, but that’s it’s never been properly funded.

Cuomo’s budget proposal would also hold SUNY, CUNY, and community college funding flat for the third consecutive year, Gillett said. Over the past 30 years, smaller and smaller proportions of SUNY schools’ operating costs are covered by the state, Bearden said. As a result, SUNY students and their families are not just paying higher tuition, but the tuition income makes up a larger chunk of the schools’ operating funds.

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