By T.G. Branfalt
ALBANY, N.Y. (Reuters) - New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a $142 billion state budget on Wednesday that keeps spending growth below 2 percent and promises more money for big-ticket infrastructure projects while cutting property taxes.
The plan taps $5.4 billion in one-off settlements with banks to fund over $3 billion infrastructure and other investments and promises a $1.7 billion property-tax credit to 1.3 million home owners while essentially freezing spending at state agencies.
"This is real, meaningful, significant tax relief that will make a difference in people's lives that will send a very strong signal that the New York we brought you for the last four years is the New York that we are going to continue," said Cuomo.
Cuomo, who has been talked of as a possible Democratic presidential candidate, outlined a broad vision for the state in a 90-minute speech that ranged from trade relations with Cuba to an overhaul of the state's public education system.
Cuomo ended with a paean to his father and former three-term New York state governor (1983-1994) Mario Cuomo who died on Jan. 1, linking the ideas of family and state in an emotionally charged finale that drew loud applause.
The governor's presentation marks the start of the state's budget process. Cuomo is aiming to produce a fifth consecutive on time budget, consolidating his reputation as a competent manager of state finances.
The administration's focus on keeping spending growth below 2 percent has helped the state achieve its highest credit rating in 40 years. Standard & Poor's rates the state AA+. The state was last rated above that in 1962 when it had a AAA rating.
In the week ahead of the speech, Cuomo, who has made infrastructure and economic development a priority, announced a series of high-profile projects such a $450 million air train line to New York City's La Guardia airport and $1.5 billion to revitalize the upstate economy.
Cuomo also promised $1.1 billion in extra spending on education, an increase of 4.8 percent, linked to reform in the education system making it easier for authorities to remove teachers who do not meet certain standards.
Cuomo, a Democrat, could face increased opposition from the state Senate in his coming term after Republicans regained control of the upper chamber in last year's elections. During the last cycle Republican and Democrats shared control of the Senate in a power-sharing arrangement.
(Writing by Edward Krudy; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)