Cuomo: Settlement funds need to be in budget

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Cuomo Rochester 2015

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office is pushing back against an effort by Senate Republicans to remove $5.4 billion in state settlement money from the $142 billion budget.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, said yesterday that the settlement money, which would be used to fund a $1.5 billion upstate competitive fund and a variety of other initiatives, should be addressed after the budget deal is reached for the fiscal year that starts a week from today.

Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi knocked the idea and said Cuomo wouldn’t sign off on a budget that “shortchanges” upstate.

“Use of the $5 billion in settlement funds — specifically the $1.5 billion Upstate Revitalization Initiative — is central to the finances of the state and a core component of the budget,” Azzopardi said in a statement to Gannett’s Albany Bureau.

“The governor feels strongly that upstate New York has been shortchanged by Albany for too long and now is the time to build on our economic momentum Upstate. The Upstate Revitalization Initiative follows the model of success developed in western New York and the regional economic development councils, and the governor will not sign off on a budget that shortchanges New York, including upstate New York,” he continued.

Cuomo has proposed creating the $1.5 billion economic-development competition, in which seven regions north of New York City would compete for three $500 million prizes. But Senate Republicans have balked at the competition and want the money divided more evenly among the regions.

Also, Republicans and Democrats have questioned Cuomo’s proposal to send $1.3 billion of the settlement money to the state Thruway Authority to help pay for the $3.9 billion replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge and keep tolls constant on the 570-mile Thruway system.

Meanwhile, upstate business leaders want the upstate pot increased from $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion.

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