ALBANY – New York will become the first state to make tuition at public colleges and universities free for middle-class students. The tuition initiative is part of a new $153 billion state budget approved Sunday by the state Senate, a day after the Assembly approved it.
Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed the tuition plan, which will cost an estimated $163 million. In-state students whose families earn $125,000 or less will be eligible.
The budget also includes provisions allowing the ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft to expand upstate, which could be allowed as early as July 8. The budget also raises the age of adult criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 and includes a renewed 421a subsidy for real estate developers.
Locally, both the city of Jamestown and Dunkirk will also both benefit from the budget.
State Senator Catharine Young (R-Olean) is announcing a $5 million budget allocation for the National Comedy Center in Jamestown. In addition, Jamestown will receive a one-shot injection of funding $2.5 million to help fund initiatives that will real in annual spending in the financially strapped city.
Both the city of Dunkirk and the Dunkirk school district will also likely receive state aid as the community continues to wait for the conversion of the NRG power plant, which is the largest source of tax revenue in the county and is located in Dunkirk. The newly adopted budget includes $45 million for the power plant mitigation fund, and calls for the mitigation fund to be extended from five years to seven. Sen. Young said she will work directly with the Governor to secure the necessary amount from the fund to help close the gap for the city, school and county as NRG works to complete its conversion. Chautauqua County, the City of Dunkirk and the School District had estimated an $8 million loss of revenues in 2017 without the state aid available through the mitigation fund.
School districts will also benefit from the new state budget, with overall state aid going up by 7.4 percent, or $18.4 million over the current year. Jamestown’s final overall increase will be 8.2 percent, or just over $5.2 million. With building aid excluded, the increase is 7.3 percent.
The complete state aid runs can be found online at www.budget.ny.gov.
The budget was due by April 1 but passage was delayed by difficulties in negotiations.