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State Budget Includes Diversion of $30 Million from MTA Budget

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TWC News: State Budget Includes Diversion of $30 Million from MTA Budget
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Beyond giving New York City millions of dollars for universal pre-K, the new state budget is a mixed bag for New York City's many demands, with aspects that have been overshadowed by the more contentious issues. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

On the day of the marathon budget vote in the legislature, aides to Mayor Bill de Blasio, including top adviser Emma Wolfe, were in Albany conferring with key members of the Assembly.

Ultimately, the state approved money for de Blasio's top priority, universal pre-kindergarten, but it also attached some strings, including state certifications.

"This is the real deal," said Assemblyman Keith Wright of Manhattan. "We're talking about children being taught by certified teachers. We're talking about real pre-kindergarten classes."

While pre-K was the dominant city issue, there were other priorities that came up during the course of negotiations, including the diversion of $40 million from the budget of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

While it was reduced to $30 million in the final agreement, critics said that's still too much, and the loss will certainly not help to improve subway and bus service.

"$30 million is still too much," said state Sen. Bill Perkins of Manhattan. "It's not as much as $40 (million), but nevertheless, we should be doing just the opposite. Instead of taking money out of the budget, we should be putting money in the budget. New York City's system is growing."

The Cuomo administration downplayed the diversion.

"The state was paying debt service for the MTA, and I think as part of the budget negotiations, we decided to leave some of that money with the MTA instead of taking all of it out," said state budget director Robert Megna.

New York City lawmakers had also been hopeful about a proposal from Governor Andrew Cuomo to provide college courses to prison inmates. The plan was abandoned.

"There was a feeling, primarily in the Senate, that we should not be using public funds to provide college courses in prison," Cuomo said.

State Senate co-leader Jeff Klein wanted to include money in the budget for additional speed cameras in New York City, a priority for de Blasio consistent with his Vision Zero traffic plan. However, that, too, was dropped at the 11th hour.

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