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Cuomo Turns His Budget Focus To Public Pensions, Education System

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Following a year of fiscal austerity, Governor Andrew Cuomo looks to the 2012-2013 budget season with an eye toward overhauling the state's pension system and making aggressive changes to public education. Nick Reisman filed the following report for NY1.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is getting ready to reveal his budget proposal for the new fiscal year on Tuesday.

Although the governor would not share many details of the expected $130 billion plan in advance, he touted on Monday a brighter picture looking forward.

"The good work that we did last year is actually going to pay dividends this year," said Cuomo. "So, from just a budget point of view, where we had a true crisis last year, we had a $10 billion deficit, we had chaos. We have a much better budget situation on the numbers."

"We got a good start last year, moving in a better and a new direction. Took about a 90-degree turn," said Republican Assemblyman Jim Tedisco of Schenectady.

In a speech to a mostly African-American audience at an Albany event honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the governor blasted the education system and outlined what may be a frequent refrain in the coming weeks.

Cuomo is reportedly holding back a promised 4-percent increase in school aid in exchange for a tougher teacher evaluation system.

"Government here is actually part of the problem because we have lost focus on what it's all about. We have created an education bureaucracy and now it's about the education bureaucracy perpetuating the education bureaucracy," said the governor. "It has become about the business of education more than achievement in education."

Scaling back public pensions by possibly going to a 401k-type system may be proposed as well.

"We desperately need pension reform. We talk about mandate relief, meaning how do we lessen the burden on local governments? Property taxes are too high all across the state and the local governments say they have mandates imposed from the state. One of the main mandates is the cost of pensions," said Cuomo. "We tried to reduce the cost of pensions last year. We didn't get it done last year, we're going to work very hard to get it done this year. I think it's vitally important."

Medicaid spending is also expected to increase by 4 percent, but many departments will likely see their budgets cut by 2.5 percent.

Cuomo said one thing that is not going to be included at all are funds for hydrofracking.

He said he will not set aside money to extract natural gas from an upstate reservoir until the process is approved.

The state budget is running a $2.5 billion deficit. It is due on April 1.

NY1 will have live budget coverage starting at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

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