Cuomo, lawmakers reach state budget deal with tuition plan
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders have agreed on a $153 billion state budget that includes free middle-class tuition at state universities, Uber and Lyft's long-awaited upstate expansion and a long-sought juvenile justice reform that Cuomo calls one of his proudest achievements.
The spending measure, which requires legislative approval, also includes $1.1 billion in new school spending; $2.5 billion for water quality and water and sewer upgrades; expanded child care tax credits; and new powers for Cuomo, a Democrat, to adjust state spending in the face of federal spending cuts.
The budget was due by April 1 but lawmakers and Cuomo failed to reach agreement on several sticking points -- most notably the juvenile justice reform known as "raise the age." It would increase the age of adult criminal responsibility from 16 to 18, ensuring that young offenders aren't automatically prosecuted and incarcerated as adults.
"This is a legacy accomplishment," Cuomo told reporters late Friday night. "They have talked about raising the age for 12 or 13 years. It has never gotten done. This budget does it."
The college tuition plan would be phased in over three years and, when complete, make tuition free at state colleges and universities for students from families making $125,000 or less. It also boosts tuition aid for students at private colleges.
Raise the age was a priority for Democrats, most notably Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx. Lawmakers in North Carolina, the only other state where 16- and 17-year-old offenders are prosecuted as adults, also are considering legislation to raise the age.
"We have won a tremendous victory for communities across the state that have endured senseless tragedies and called on the Legislature to deliver a justice system that recognizes the difference between a child and an adult," Heastie said in a statement. "This is the beginning of a new chapter in New York State where young people are given a chance to grow up and recover from their past wrongdoing without forfeiting their futures."
Republican Senate Leader John Flanagan hasn't announced when he will call the Senate back to vote on the budget. The full Legislature is expected back in late April.
"The product of hard work and compromise, our state spending plan meets the needs of middle-class taxpayers and their families and advances key initiatives to make our state more affordable," Flanagan said in a statement. He said it "makes the largest ever investment in clean water, helps families better afford the high costs of college and ensures all of our schools have the resources they need to give students a high-quality education."
Uber said it will be ready to begin operations in upstate cities like Syracuse, Buffalo, Rochester and Albany this summer if the budget is approved. It and other app-based ride-hailing services are now limited to the New York City area.