Joseph Spector http://rochesterdemocrat.ny.newsmemory.com
Albany bureau chief
ALBANY — Supporters of the Dream Act on Tuesday pressed Gov. Andrew Cuomo to include the measure in the state budget, saying if he supports it, he should use his power to make it happen.
The bill that would provide state tuition aid to immigrants in the country illegally who are attending college failed in the state Senate on Monday by two votes. Advocates said the next step would be for Cuomo to include the initiative in the state budget for the fiscal year that starts April 1.
“The next step is very simple. The governor has called this a priority. So we want him to include in the budget. That’s the bottom line,” Sen. Jose Peralta, D-Queens, the bill’s sponsor, said.
Cuomo said Monday night he was disappointed that the bill failed and would work with supporters to try to get it passed in Albany. None of the Senate Republicans have backed the bill, and two Democrats — Ted O’Brien of suburban Rochester and Simcha Felder of Queens — opposed it.
On Tuesday, Cuomo’s office referred back to his comments Monday.
“I’m disappointed that the New York state Senate failed to pass the New York state Dream Act and denied thousands of hardworking and high-achieving students equal access to higher education and the opportunity that comes with it,” Cuomo said in his statement. “I will continue to work with supporters, stakeholders and members of the legislature to achieve this dream and build the support to pass this legislation and preserve New York’s legacy as a progressive leader.”
Advocates said Cuomo should start with budget talks, which are heating up as the March 31 deadline approaches.
Lucia Gomez, executive director of the immigration advocacy group La Fuente, said the Assembly, Cuomo and much of the Senate supports the bill. Cuomo should make it happen through his budget negotiations, she said.
“I think three out of four makes it a given that the budget is the next best step,” Gomez said.
The proposal has fiscal implications. It would allow for $25 million in state aid to be used for tuition assistance at public and private colleges, including up to $5,000 a year for undergraduates.
Peralta said Cuomo has used the power of his office to win legislative approval for his priorities, such as samesex marriage in 2011 and gun control in 2013. Peralta said he should do the same with the Dream Act.
“The best way to take it out of everybody’s hands: Include it in the budget,” Peralta said.