Cuomo to unveil budget plan and initiatives for 2016

(AP) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo's $140 billion-plus budget proposal and remaining initiatives for 2016 will be unveiled in an address to lawmakers that follows nearly two weeks of headline-grabbing announcements by the New York Democrat.

In the run-up to the governor's annual state of the state address, which Cuomo has combined for the first time with his executive budget proposal, he has called for raising the minimum wage to $15, cutting small-business taxes, boosting the environmental protection fund and freezing Thruway tolls while spending more on roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

He has revealed plans to revamp Penn Station and expand the Javits convention center in Manhattan, add a third rail line for the Long Island Rail Road, redesign 30 New York City subway stations, revitalize upstate airports and take the homeless indoors on the coldest nights. Other plans include pardons for young offenders who don't commit new crimes, more municipal contracting with minority and women-owned businesses and adding college courses in prisons.

"I'm going to be pushing very hard this year for tangible accomplishments and real progress," Cuomo said Monday on the Rev. Al Sharpton's radio show.

Cuomo's address on Wednesday also is expected to touch on his plans for addressing Albany's corruption problem and a strategy for combating homelessness, an effort likely to include help for shelters and programs as well as supportive housing.

Other remaining issues include the level of state aid to public schools, currently a record $27 billion, Medicaid funding, now $62 billion and covering one-third of New Yorkers, and total planned spending expected to include further windfalls from financial settlements. The state Regents have called for $2.4 billion more in school aid. Advocates want even more.

Scores of people rallied at the state Capitol on Tuesday to urge lawmakers to increase education funding to $30 billion, while lobbyists for renewable energy, charter schools, food banks and other interest groups worked the hallways of the state Capitol hoping to advance their budget priorities with lawmakers.

A year ago, Cuomo proposed a $141.6 billion budget for the current fiscal year, which ends March 31. That was up about $4 billion and subject to negotiations with the Legislature before a final plan was enacted.

He called then for new spending for economic development projects, raising the minimum wage, property tax relief, expanded broadband access and funding for the new Tappan Zee Bridge over the lower Hudson River.

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