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Wednesday, February 19, 2014
FILE PHOTO - Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced
a plan Sunday to allow state prisoners to take
college courses. Many local politicians oppose it.
Following a statement of opposition by state Sen. George Maziarz on Tuesday, several local politicians have come out against a proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to fund college studies for state prisoners.

Tuesday afternoon, state Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, announced an online petition in opposition to the Cuomo plan, which would establish places for prisoners to earn college credits — and even degrees — in every region of the state.

“I support rehabilitation and reduced recidivism, but not on the taxpayer’s dime when so many individuals and families in New York are struggling to meet the ever-rising costs of higher education,” Grisanti said in announcing the petition, which he had hoped would gain 1,000 signatures. As of 2 p.m., the petition had over 3,300 signatures.

Governor Cuomo announced that the initiative will cost $5,000 per year per inmate. There are currently approximately 54,500 inmates housed in state prisons.

Assemblyman John Ceretto, R-Lewiston, also came out against the plan Tuesday, saying the state has better ways to spend its money than to allow free education for prisoners.

“The cost of a college education is higher than its ever been, and working-class families trying to make a better life for their kids simply cannot afford it without going into debt. I would much rather help them pay for college than people who have broken the law,” said Ceretto.

Next up: The Niagara County Legislature, which met Tuesday night, passed a unanimous resolution in opposition to the plan.

“Making New York’s taxpayers—many of whom have worked long and hard at difficult jobs to pay for their own and their children’s educations—pay so that murderers and rapists and other felons can receive college degrees isn’t simply wrong.  It’s ludicrous,” Majority Leader Rick Updegrove, R-Lockport, told colleagues.

“There are no jobs in this state under this governor,” added Legislature Vice Chairman Clyde Burmaster, R-Ransomville. “You almost wonder if they would be better off robbing a 7-11 for the educational benefits.”

This morning, U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, chimed in: “The Governor’s latest plan to fund college educations for convicted criminals with New Yorkers’ tax dollars is an insult to law abiding citizens all across our state who are struggling to pay for higher education or find employment in this stagnant economy.  This plan is just the latest sign that for a state that is the highest taxed and ranks among the worst in job creation, Albany has its priorities all screwed up.”

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