Now that the election results have been finalized, many voters and officials have high expectations for the re-elected Gov. Cuomo, specifically on social issues.
“The first term was about balancing the budget and developing trust between the state government and the public,” state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said. “Now he can sort of get back to social issues and his Democratic base.”
Among the number of issues Cuomo campaigned on, one of the most sensitive is the DREAM Act — legislation that includes a budget appropriation of $25 million in the state’s Tuition Assistance Program and allows any student to apply for college aid, regardless of citizen status.
This isn’t the first time the bill has been brought up; last year — and for the past four years — the DREAM Act and the DREAM fund before it has not been able to get past the state Senate.
Groups including Make the Road New York and supporters of the legislation held Cuomo accountable for not getting the DREAM Act passed last year — it failed in the Senate 30-29, with most Republicans voting against the bill. Many, including state officials, criticized Cuomo for playing a passive role and not pushing hard enough.
The governor’s campaign this year, however, mentioned legislation such as the DREAM Act and Women’s Equality Act as issues he and his running mate Kathy Hochul will make a priority in 2015.
“We saw that the governor campaigned hard on the DREAM Act; he passed out mailers and mentioned it in his victory speech,” Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights), a key sponsor of the bill, said. “I think we’re seeing him clearing the air and making a commitment.”
On election night, Moya sent Cuomo a “mandate” to advocate for the issues he campaigned on, including the DREAM Act.
Electeds, including Moya and Peralta — the sponsor of the Senate bill — are banking on Cuomo to include the DREAM Act in his executive budget plan. That wouldn’t guarantee that the legislation would be approved, but would improve the odds drastically, they believe.
“We’ve been setting up a series of meetings and plan to have people make calls to the governor,” Peralta said. “We want to have all the supporters in previous years making a concerted push to make sure we’re looking to include it in the executive budget.”
But if Cuomo’s commitment to the DREAM Act doesn’t take the form of an item in the executive budget plan, Democrat electeds are beginning to speak with their Republican counterparts, especially the incoming freshmen.
“Unlike last year, 2015 is not an election year, so there’s a lot less pressure on Republicans and the Latino community is growing and becoming a substantial population in many districts in the state,” Peralta said. “It’s going to be difficult for [Cuomo] to take a step back now, but if he does we have a two-fold approach.”
According to Peralta, there were two Republican senators expected to vote in favor of the DREAM Act last year who ended up walking away at the last minute.
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