New York Lawmakers in Budget Fracas
New York State legislators remained at an impasse late last week over state aid to schools, the main issue now holding up passage of the full state budget.
State officials, meanwhile, warned that school districts might not receive their first spring aid payments--scheduled for April 15--if negotiations over the spending plan continue to lag. Paychecks for some state workers could also be delayed, they added.
A tumultuous week of debate, which included several all-night sessions, left the Assembly divided over how to meet a last-minute demand for more school aid by Senate Republicans, who on April 5 requested an additional $38 million for that purpose.
The proposal for more aid, which came from the state's powerful Long Island delegation led by Senate Majority Leader Warren M. Anderson, included $15 million for a "chancellor's fund'' for the New York City schools.
The Republicans also requested $23 million to help districts meet state asbestos-removal requirements by the Oct. 1 deadline. Late in the week they increased that request to $300 million, Francis Sheehan, a spokesman for the Governor said, which was "totally unacceptable'' to the Governor.
"The Republicans essentially became asbestos experts overnight,'' and decided that the original request was not enough, he added.
The Long Island delegation makes up almost a quarter of the Senate's Republican majority.
Gov. Mario M. Cuomo has repeatedly said he would not accept a budget exceeding $28.4 billion. But late in the week he indicated that he might compromise on the funds for asbestos removal.
The Assembly was scheduled to meet late Friday to work out differences over the rest of the school-aid package.
Another issue holding up passage of the budget was Mr. Cuomo's proposed Liberty Scholarship program, which would guarantee poor students who graduate from high school free tuition at any of the state's colleges. The Governor has said that passage of the bill is his top legislative priority.
Jocelyn Dax, the Assembly's legislative coordinator for education, said supporters of the scholarship program have run into opposition from lawmakers who are pushing for continued funding of the Tuition Assistance Program, which has provided aid to needy college-bound students for several years.
Late in the week, a tentative agreement was reached that included both passage of the Liberty program and increased funds for TAP, although the amounts proposed for each program were not made public, Mr. Sheehan said.
Officials expected final passage of the last section of the five-part bill over the weekend.--LJ