ALBANY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers appeared poised to end an ongoing budget impasse late Tuesday, despite a flare-up in the contentious negotiations earlier in the day.
The state Legislature began introducing budget bills Tuesday evening, signaling a break in the lingering stalemate that stretched four days into the start of the state's fiscal year.
The state Senate signaled it would begin voting late Tuesday night, with the Assembly expected to begin voting Wednesday morning.
Budget bills introduced
The details of a final budget agreement, however, were difficult to glean as of Tuesday evening.
Only four of the remaining nine bills needed to pass the budget -- which is expected to surpass $150 billion -- had been introduced by 6 p.m., leaving lawmakers, lobbyists and reporters scrambling to figure out what's in and what's out.
Many contentious issues will be included in the state's revenue bill, which had yet to be introduced. That includes how to distribute more than $20 billion in funding for schools and an agreed-upon plan to pave the way for Uber and Lyft to expand statewide.
Cuomo's office signaled Tuesday it would waive a mandated three-day waiting period so lawmakers could begin voting right away.
"We could begin voting tomorrow," Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, Monroe County, said Tuesday evening.
Cuomo and lawmakers blew past the state's Friday deadline to have a spending plan in place, unable to reach agreement on issues like removing most 16- and 17-year-olds from the state's adult court system and extending a lucrative, expired tax credit for New York City builders.
The impasse already made this year's budget the latest in Cuomo's seven years in office.
The Legislature on Monday approved a short-term budget "extender", an emergency maneuver that kept the state operating through May.
The apparent end to the budget stalemate came after behind-the-scenes tensions bubbled into public view Tuesday morning.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, emerged from a negotiating meeting, telling reporters a "substantial agreement" was at hand on some of the budget's major sticking points.
He vowed to begin voting Tuesday afternoon -- if Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, put the agreements into bill form.
Less than two hours later, Cuomo told a different version of event, suggesting a final budget deal could easily wait until after Easter.
Cuomo said the budget extender gives him and lawmakers more time to negotiate, in part because billions of dollars in infrastructure and construction projects were funded in it.
"These other issues, we'll deal with and they're important," Cuomo said in Greene County, where he examined the scene of a grounded gasoline barge. "But there's no great rush at this point to get anything done because in people's lives, all the government operations are continuing."
Lawmakers had been pushing for a full budget deal this week, with the Legislature scheduled to begin its 18-day Easter break on Thursday.
There's also personal financial pressure: By law, pay for lawmakers is being withheld until a final budget is in place, though Cuomo continues to receive his paycheck.
Democrats, including Cuomo, have been pushing for a measure to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18, a move that would mean most 16- and 17-year olds would no longer be tried as adults, except in extreme cases like murders.
But Senate Republicans have pushed back, raising myriad concerns over removing those accused of violent crimes or repeat offenders.
The disagreement boiled over Monday, with various Senate Republicans issuing statements essentially accusing Democrats of wanting to coddle juvenile rapists and murderers. Heastie strenuously denied the charge, accusing the GOP of waging an untruthful "fear campaign".
By Tuesday night, lawmakers had signaled they were nearing final agreement on the issue, though the bill language hadn't yet been posted publicly.
Late night ahead
The Senate's vote, meanwhile, was expected to begin late Tuesday and carry through much of the night.
Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, said Democrats had requested time to review the budget bills before voting began.
"They want to look at more of the bills, justifiably so, before they start the process," DeFrancisco said.
Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, said this year's budget process has been "extremely dysfunctional."
"It’s gone on and on and on," she said.
Includes reporting by Albany Bureau correspondent Lindsey Riback.
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