Dozens arrested at Capitol as budget talks continue

Mar 21, 2014

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders continue to meet behind closed doors to hash out a budget deal, while outside the governor’s offices dozens of angry protesters were arrested.

Cuomo is calling legislative leaders into his office for twice-a-day private meetings to hash out details of the $145 billion state budget.

Still under discussion is how much money the state should set aside to achieve universal pre-kindergarten. The state Senate wants to fully fund New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal, but Republicans who co-lead the chamber have rejected a plan to tax the rich to get the money.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who is a longtime pre-K supporter, offered nothing definitive.

“We’re discussing ranges,” Silver said.

There’s also likely to be some form of relief to charter schools.  
 

Protesters gathered at the state Capitol Thursday. Dozens were arrested.
Protesters gathered at the state Capitol Thursday. Dozens were arrested.
Credit Karen Dewitt / WRVO

Cuomo only says that he’s pursuing “a number of strategies to protect charter schools," but no final decisions have been made.

The governor is placing more emphasis on his plan to freeze property taxes, which is facing widespread resistance from the legislature, local government and school officials, and unions. Cuomo says he sees the issue as his top priority, and he places himself as the central figure in what he calls the greatest challenge and struggle of the budget.

“I represent the people,” Cuomo said. “You have the people of the state versus the bureaucracy, and I’m pushing for reform of the bureaucracy.”

The governor gave little hope for enactment of the Dream Act as part of the budget, saying there’s currently a stalemate. On Monday, the state Senate voted down the measure, which would allow children of undocumented immigrants to be eligible for college financial aid.

Meanwhile protesters are not taking no for an answer on the Dream Act and other issues. About 70 people staged a sit in and blockaded the door to the governor’s offices. Around 300 supporters chanted “Hey 'Governor One Percent,' who do you represent?”

Many of the demonstrators oppose the governor’s tax cutting plan, which also includes reductions in corporate taxes and the estate tax. They say the money would be better spent on struggling schools. Several people were arrested.

Ron Deutsch, with New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, says the groups believe the state spending plan is more favorable to the haves than to the have-nots.

“We take objection to that,” said Deutsch. “Half of the kids in our cities are living in poverty. We have record hunger, we have record homelessness. Our schools are underfunded.”  

As the protest continued, the governor and legislative leaders resumed their meetings behind locked doors. They say an agreement could come as early as next Monday.