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De Blasio, Mark-Viverito Back N.Y. State Dream Act

Mayor Bill de Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio on March 20, 2014. (Credit: CBS 2)

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito have told a conference of state lawmakers they are backing a bill to open state financial aid to students in the country illegally.

The conference was organized by Hispanic members of the New York State Legislature.

De Blasio and Mark-Viverito did not mention including the Dream Act in the state budget at the breakfast appearance in Albany on Saturday. But a group of Hispanic lawmakers met with Gov. Andrew Cuomo Friday afternoon and came away hopeful that they have his support for the measure as budget negotiations continue.

On Monday, the state senate voted down the Dream Act.

The 30-29 vote was short of the 32 votes needed to pass, a rare defeat for a bill on the floor of the Senate. There are 63 seats, two are vacant, and two senators did not vote.

The Senate’s ruling coalition of Republicans and breakaway Democrats brought the closely watched bill to the floor late in the day with little notice. Supporters of the measure said that was intentional.

“It certainly seems that it was bought up to fail, given the outcome,” Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) said Monday. He said the vote “made a mockery of a very important issue.”

No Republicans voted for the measure, though all five of their coalition partners in the Independent Democratic Conference voted for it. All but one of the mainline Democrats in the minority voted for the measure.

The proposal includes a budget appropriation of $25 million to open up Tuition Assistance Program money for students who are in the country illegally but attend public or private colleges, paying up to $5,000 a year for undergraduates at four-year institutions.

Exactly how many would be eligible for the need-based assistance is unclear, but according to a report issued by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, 8,300 such students in the CUNY and SUNY systems would qualify.

Since it was first introduced three years ago, opponents have argued that using taxpayer money to fund tuition assistance for people in the country illegally takes opportunity and funds away from students who are citizens. New York is among 16 states that already allow those students to pay in-state tuition at public colleges.

The Assembly passed the Dream Act last month. After the vote, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has indicated support for the bill, released a statement saying he was disappointed that the Senate had failed to pass the bill.

Opponents said the bill amounted to an improper use of taxpayer funds.

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