Governor Andrew Cuomo is linking two controversial tuition assistance programs, and that's setting up a fight between the State Assembly and Senate. Zack Fink filed the following report.
Dominated by New York City Democrats, the state Assembly passed a bill known as the Dream Act, which allows undocumented students to tap state tuition assistance to attend college.
The bill is opposed by the Republican-run state Senate, but this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo is linking the bill to an education tax credit, something Senate Republicans want.
"We don't believe that they should be linked either. That was the governor's choice. The governor did that," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. "We're moving forward today with the Dream Act, and we hope that it will be passed on its own merits."
The education tax credit enables people to donate part of their tax liability to the charity of their choice, which provides scholarships for students to attend religious and private schools.
"The good thing is that it's certainly in the governor's budget and it's on the governor's agenda, and we appreciate that," said Jake Adler of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center. "We're going to have to see how the Dream Act plays into it later on."
By attaching the two bills in the state budget, the governor is forcing the legislature to pass both of these controversial proposals that have failed to make it through both houses.
By tying a number of his controversial education proposals to appropriations bills in his 30-day budget amendments, the governor is all but forcing lawmakers to accept his policies or risk a late budget.
"The governor and I have spoken, and he knows about my disappointment in how he presented the 30-day amendments," Heastie said.
Supporters of the Dream Act say it's a good way to help students get jobs and ultimately contribute to the state's economy, but many Republicans oppose it.
"This is now the fourth time that we're voting on the Dream Act in less than a year, and I've brought up the argument time and again that we should be supportive of our citizens in this state that are struggling to pay for education. They're taking on a tremendous amount of debt," said Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis of Staten Island.
The Dream Act failed on the Senate floor last year, and the education tax credit never even made it to the Assembly floor for a vote. Both items could wind up being approved as part of the state budget, which is slated to be voted on next month.