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Cuomo Touts Second On-Time Budget Agreement

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Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday evening that state lawmakers in Albany have reached an agreement for an on-time budget for the second year in a row.

The $132.5 billion budget for 2012-2013, which was due by April 1, increases spending by 1.9 percent and creates a new panel to streamline big construction projects.

Notoriously late budgets had come to define Albany, a culture the governor vowed to change. Cuomo credited his staff and a good working relationship with the state Legislature for New york being on pace to pass its second on time budget in as many years.

"Congratulations to all of you. I know it was a long road and a long haul. And I know we are not there yet, they still have to vote, but it's been a really great job," the governor said.

Cuomo said the deal with Democratic State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos expands economic development and jobs programs in addition to providing protections for poor New Yorkers and immigrants.

The governor said the budget does not include any new taxes or fees.

"It is a very honest, straightforward document that exhibits the fiscal discipline and fiscal integrity that we've been talking about," Cuomo said. "It also evidences the priorities we've been talking about: It's all about jobs, jobs, jobs."

In effect, the Legislature last year already agreed to raise taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers. The so-called millionaire's tax was supposed to end last year but a new tax rate on the state's wealthiest residents was pushed through by the governor.

Cuomo also touted a plan to streamline big construction projects, as now 45 agencies have to approve them. The so-called New York Works Task Force will slim down the approval project.

School aid is increasing in both competitive grants and based on established formulas.

It also solidifies the changes in retirement plans for future state workers. That led Mayor Michael Bloomberg to praise the plan, while public sector unions panned it.

In addition, SUNY and CUNY community colleges will see a $31 billion increase.

"Significant increases for the first time in five years, because we believe in bad economic times people go to community colleges to build their skills, get jobs or get better jobs," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Other highlights in the budget include infrastructure investment. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will get its full state funding of $770 million for projects like the Second Avenue subway, the Fulton Transit Center and expansion of the 7 line.

Some of the most contentious issues in this budget were actually dealt with weeks ago. A deal was reached for new teacher evaluations and legislators voted on a controversial pension reform plan earlier this month.

When Cuomo was asked to compare last year's process to this year's, he said "This year, in some ways, the degree of difficulty went up by our own ambition. We laid forth a very ambitious agenda in the State Of The State [Address] and the budget. Because the state needed it."

Not in this year's budget is money for a health care exchange. New York must set one up to comply with federal law but there was no agreement. The governor has confirmed that he will set it up via executive order, likely this week.

State lawmakers will begin voting on the individual budget bills Wednesday.

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