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Gov. Cuomo's Budget Cuts Education Aid, Proposes Incentives for Mergers

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Gov. Mario M. Cuomo of New York last week presented a fiscal 1993 budget that calls for the third round of cuts in state aid to education in two years.

The Governor recommended a reduction of $168 million, representing 2.8 percent less than the current level of funding.

Mr. Cuomo's budget plan would provide new financial incentives, however, for school-district consolidation.

The Governor also said that districts would be able to realize estimated savings of $150 million if the legislature and Board of Regents agree to lift "certain well-meaning but now-unaffordable mandates."

"Despite the cuts, New York will remain in the top five states in its support of elementary and secondary schoolchildren," according to the budget document released by the Governor's office.

Higher education also would be hit by reduced state funding. The Governor's budget targets the State University of New York and the City University of New York systems for $85.2 million in cuts. In addition, it recommends reducing tuition assistance by $20 million and halving aid to the state's independent colleges and universities.

To offset some of the state-aid losses, however, Mr. Cuomo recommended that SUNY and CUNY be given discretionary authority to raise tuition.

Even before the Governor unveiled his budget proposal, the New York State United Teachers was preparing to launch a $ 1-million media blitz to fight state-aid cuts.

"We believe public education is at the edge of an abyss," said the union's president, Thomas Y. Hobart Jr. "Another push would send our schools into free fall and thousands of children will be lost along the way."

Although education programs would lose funding, the overall state budget would increase under Mr. Cuomo's plan by 1.4 percent, to $30.25 billion for the fiscal year that begins April 1.

As he did earlier this month in his State of the State Address, Mr. Cuomo in his budget message urged that the pay of the governor and members of the legislature be docked for each day they failed to reach a budget accord beyond the beginning of the new year. (See Education Week, Dec. 15, 1992.)

While the Governor's budget seeks no new taxes, it is based on $127 million in new fees, a reduction in the state workforce, and streamlining of government operations, among other measures.

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