Senate budget may not include ‘specific number’ for pre-K

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Tom Libous. (AP Photo/Tim Roske)
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ALBANY—The Senate’s majority coalition is considering a final agreement on a budget resolution that would avoid setting a specific funding level for pre-kindergarten programs, Republican senator Tom Libous told reporters late Wednesday.

“You know there have been a lot of numbers bantered around, but I couldn’t give you a specific number,” Libous said. “In the resolution, I'm not sure there’ll be a specific number either. I think there may be language that talks about being supportive of a specific proposal."

Libous’s comments suggest the coalition may not resolve their differences between the Independent Democratic Conference and Republicans over how much money the pre-K proposal should receive, and instead punt the specific spending commitments to the three-way negotiations with the governor and Assembly.

The Assembly's budget resolution authorized New York City to raise income taxes on the wealthy, an endorsement touted as a significant victory by Mayor Bill de Blasio. It includes a "sustainable" $100 million appropriation to increase pre-K funding in "high needs" districts, and increases education funding by $400 million in the next school year over the allocation proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

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Libous said he expects the Senate coalition to finalize its resolution tonight, with major disagreements now centering on the DREAM Act, which I.D.C. leader Jeff Klein supports and Republican leader Dean Skelos opposes, and public financing of campaigns, which Republicans oppose, even as I.D.C. members have come out in favor of it.

“There’s just a couple items that we’re still not closed on and we expect to hammer it out tonight,” Libous said.

He refuted any suggestion the coalition is suffering a bout of dysfunction.

“We’re pretty proud of the coalition government. It’s worked, I think, very well,” Libous said.

“Right now we’re just having some disagreements — that’s normal. The I.D.C. and the Senate Republicans are still very close, working well, and I think we’ll get through this. It’s just a matter of crossing a few t’s and dotting a few i’s,” he said.