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Politics
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced early in his term that he'd be creating a set of "regional economic councils" to build plans for funding economic development across New York, from the ground up.In the summer of 2011 he finally announced some of the details of the program, to be led by Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy. The ten councils each have dozens of members, and are charged with gathering input from the public and business leaders, and creating a plan by November 14. Those plans will be pitted against each other for a pot of $1 billion in grants, incentives, and tax relief from various state agencies. The winners will get more funding, the losers will get less.But other details - like whether funding will be available past the initial term, and who will serve on the board that decides who wins and who loses - have not been released.The Innovation Trail is looking for your feedback about what your regional economic priorities are, and what you want your community to look like once the councils have completed their task.

Budget highlights so far

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Cuomo's waving the flag for cuts to SUNY and merging state entities.

Media across the state just got the press release with the highlights of the governor's budget presentation later today.

Here's what's interesting so far:

Merging the New York State Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR), and Empire State Development (ESD).  This is has been proposed before, by Governor Paterson, and we're not surprised that the Cuomo administration is bringing it up again.  Here's what the administration says the move will accomplish (along with merging several other agencies):

... streamline and eliminate duplicative bureaucracy, better align State responsibilities with need and improve services through superior coordination.

Using a commission to eliminate commissions (and authorities, and agencies).  A report from the Spending and Government Efficiency commission is due in May, and will inform long term cuts to the tune of 20 percent.

Creating the previously discussed (but not detailed) regional economic councils.  These bodies will be "one stop shops" for economic development assistance, which, according to the release, amounts to somewhere around $340 million"

The Executive Budget reprograms more than $340 million in existing economic development capital resources for major regional initiatives. Besides assisting communities affected by state facility closures, these funds will be used to provide more than $130 million for competitively determined economic development projects put forward by the Regional Councils, $100 million for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's capital program and $10 million towards the State's existing commitment for the New York City Empowerment Zone. The Executive Budget also strengthens the Excelsior Jobs Program, which was created in 2010 to provide job creation and investment tax credit incentives to businesses in targeted industries.

Cutting SUNY:

To address the state's fiscal challenges, the Executive Budget proposes reductions in the State University and City University systems. The Executive Budget reduces base per-student operating aid for community colleges by 10 percent and SUNY and CUNY operating aid by 10 percent, and eliminates the subsidy for SUNY's three teaching hospitals in Syracuse, New York City and Long Island, which accounts for approximately eight percent of overall hospital revenue. The budget keeps TAP benefits at current year levels. Converting funding programs that are based on formulas (meet the requirements, get the cash) into competitive grants. Programs that will be affected include economic development and agriculture funding.

But also adopting some of the elements of the "SUNY empowerment" agenda, including easing procurement restrictions and allowing schools more flexibility in making public-private partnerships.  Private institutions of higher education are also getting their state aid (Bundy aid) cut by a comparable 10 percent.

We'll be bringing you more details throughout the day as we learn them.

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