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Tax cuts vs. schools

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Governor Andrew Cuomo is sticking by his pitch that his 2014-15 budget proposal will leave the state with a $2 billion surplus in two years.

And when he came to Rochester last week to sell local officials on his budget plan, he said the surplus would allow the state to cut some taxes for businesses and homeowners.

But members of a local coalition of labor leaders, community activists, and faith leaders say that instead of tax cuts, the money should be used for state programs, particularly education. The group, which is part of the statewide New York Inequality campaign, laid out its objections to Cuomo's tax cut plan during a press conference the day prior to his visit. And members of the coalition held a protest rally outside of Cuomo's budget presentation.

"This budget is one that doesn't work for all New Yorkers," said Crescenzo Scipione, a Metro Justice member, at the press conference.

Other speakers said the tax cuts would continue existing inequities. Tom Gillett, staff director for New York State United Teachers' Rochester region office, said the governor's budget includes a 3.2 percent increase in school aid. That increase sounds generous, but it doesn't make up for funding cuts several years ago, he said.

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, students at state colleges have been repeatedly hit with tuition increases, said Jim Bearden, a SUNY Geneseo professor. Students are now covering a larger portion of the schools' operating costs, due to stagnant state funding, he said.

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