By Jill Terreri Ramos April 7, 2019

Flanagan criticizes Dream Act funding

Senate Republicans took aim at the recently passed New York state budget, the first spending plan in years to be crafted with Democrats in control of both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s office.

"After months of warning about the disastrous effects of one-party government, New York’s worst nightmare has been realized with the 2019-20 state budget," Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan said in a statement.

Flanagan criticized many of the $175.5 billion budget’s provisions. That included the budget’s call to fund the Jose Peralta New York State Dream Act, which allows undocumented students to access state financial aid. It is named in honor of a senator who championed the legislation before he died in 2018.  

"Because of the new one-party government in New York, other Democrat-driven priorities that made it into the final budget include fully funding an initiative to provide free college tuition for illegal immigrants, while rejecting an increase in Tuition Assistance Program funding that would help middle-class families afford college."

We have heard this claim before and wanted to know if it is true.

Dream details

The Dream Act, which provides tuition assistance to undocumented students, was passed by the Assembly and Senate, but it has not yet been signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo’s news release on the budget agreement between his administration and the Legislature states the spending plan "implements and fully funds the Jose Peralta New York State Dream Act for $27 million."

Cuomo’s budget proposal, released in January, outlined his priorities and explained the Dream Act.

"The Dream Act will give undocumented students access to the Excelsior Scholarship, the Tuition Assistance Program, as well as other state-administered scholarships," according to Cuomo’s budget briefing book. "A $27 million FY 2020 investment in young immigrants’ futures is an investment in New York’s future." A spokesman for the state Division of Budget, Freeman Klopott, confirmed that the description of the Dream Act in the briefing book is still accurate in the final budget.

Scott Reif, a spokesman for Flanagan, said the enacted budget contained $27 million for the Dream Act, which provides "free college tuition for people who are here illegally."

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As for funding for the state’s Tuition Assistance Program, or TAP, Senate Republicans favored expanding access by increasing the award and by raising the income limits to allow families to qualify for it, Reif said. TAP provides grants for students to study at public or private institutions. Senate Democrats also wanted to increase funding for TAP, and they included an expansion in their one-house bill - so named because an identical bill was not carried in the Assembly. The TAP expansion was not included in the final budget, he said.

The maximum TAP award is $5,165, while tuition for colleges in the State University of New York system is $6,870. The gap between the TAP grant and tuition costs is covered for eligible students by each campus.

Funding for TAP increased from $915.3 million to $947.7 million. The vast majority of the increase, $27 million, will fund Dreamers, Klopott said. The rest of the increase, $5.4 million, is for other students, he said. Not counting the $27 million for Dreamers, the TAP allocation increased less than 1 percent.  

A spokesman for Cuomo called Flanagan’s statement "false and misleading" because it ignores other actions in the budget to expand access to higher education through the state’s Excelsior Program, which provides free tuition at SUNY and CUNY campuses for in-state students.

"The Excelsior Program will enter the third and final year of a three-year phase-in, with the income eligibility increasing to allow New Yorkers with household incomes up to $125,000 to be eligible," said Cuomo spokesman Don Kaplan.

The budget funds the Excelsior Program with $119 million. Last year's allocation was $118 million

The Excelsior Scholarship has several rules recipients must follow, including a stipulation that they live in New York state for the length of time the award was received. 

Our ruling

Flanagan said the state budget provides "free college tuition" for people who are in the United States illegally, and that it does not expand TAP grants for the middle class.

The budget does implement the Dream Act, which allows undocumented immigrants to apply for tuition assistance programs and to receive that assistance if they meet the established criteria. But it did increase TAP funding by $5.4 million for other students - a small increase, but an increase nonetheless.

We rate Flanagan’s claim Mostly True.


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PolitiFact rating logo PolitiFact Rating:
Mostly True
The state budget fully funds "an initiative to provide free college tuition for illegal immigrants, while rejecting an increase in Tuition Assistance Program funding that would help middle-class families afford college."
in a news release
Monday, April 1, 2019

Our Sources

Governor Cuomo Announces Highlights of FY 2020 Budget, News release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, April 1, 2019. Accessed April 3, 2019.

Phone conversation, Scott Reif, Senate Republican Conference spokesman, April 2, 2019.

"New York State Budget is New Yorkers’ Worst Nightmare," News release, State Senator John J. Flanagan, April 1, 2019. Accessed April 1, 2019.

Email conversation, Don Kaplan, Gov. Andrew Cuomo spokesman, April 2, 2019.  

Senate Bill S. 1250, Enacts the Jose Peralta New York state DREAM Act; repealer. Accessed April 3, 2019.

Approved SFY 2019-20 Budget Includes $27 Million for the Jose Peralta New York State DREAM Act, News release, NYS Assembly, March 31, 2019. Accessed April 3, 2019.

FY 2020 Executive Budget Briefing Book, Higher Education, Accessed April 3, 2019.

"DREAM Act held up by overly broad language," Times-Union, March 25, 2019. Accessed April 3, 2019.

Email conversation, Freeman Klopott, spokesman, state Division of Budget, April 4, 2019.

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