Late N.Y. budget gets later as talks drag on

NY STATE BUDGET STILL PENDING

ALBANY -- The state budget is officially late.
 
In fact, it wasn't even close.
 
The contentious budget negotiations dragged well into Saturday, with Cuomo and lawmakers appearing to be close in on an agreement in the afternoon on criminal-justice reforms -- a major sticking point in talks.
 
But several other points of contention remained, most notably how the state plans to distribute billions of dollars of public-school funding and how much will be flagged for charter schools.
 
And measures that have drawn consensus -- such as clearing the way for ride-hailing services to expand statewide -- hang in the balance.
 
Lawmakers will have to work quickly if they want to continue getting paid: Their paychecks are withheld under state law until a final budget is approved.
 
And Cuomo vowed to force through a short-term, emergency spending plan if the sides didn't reach a deal by Monday.
 
"These are the same issues we've been talking about for a long time," Senate Independent Democratic Leader Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, said Saturday. "But certainly today, I'm very proud that we have been working very, very hard on a very important issue to all of us in 'Raise the Age.'"
 
Potential progress
 
The state's budget is expected to top $150 billion.
 
Saturday's negotiations focused largely on a push to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York from 16 to 18 in most cases.
 
The "Raise the Age" measure emerged as a major holdup.
 
Democrats and Cuomo are determined to change the penal law so youth aged 16 and 17 are kept out of criminal court, except in serious violent cases. Such would require significant state investment in family courts across the state.
 
Democrats in the Senate have pledged to vote against a budget unless the issue is included.
 
But Republicans have raised concerns, particularly concerning youths who commit violent crimes.
 
A bipartisan group of lawmakers exited Cuomo's office late Saturday afternoon saying they had made progress toward an agreement on the issue. They returned to their respective conferences to discuss the issue further Saturday night.
 
"We've had very intense discussions, and we need to make sure that all of our members have the same information that we do," Senate Deputy Majority Leader Cathy Young, R-Olean, Cattaraugus County, said as she exited the meeting.
 
Other issues remained outstanding. That included a lucrative, expired tax credit for affordable-housing builders in New York City, as well as well as other housing funding and Cuomo's proposal to extend free tuition to families who make less than $125,000 a year.
 
Late budget
 
Since Cuomo took office in 2011, he and state lawmakers had approved four on-time budgets and two others that were hours late during the governor's time in office.
 
The governor has held the timely budgets up as an example of efficient government, contrasting them to previous budgets that were often weeks or even months late. The state once had 20 years in a row of late budgets.
 
Shortly after this year's deadline passed, after a flurry of late-night negotiations, Cuomo put out a statement giving the 213-seat Legislature a weekend "grace period" to reach compromise.
 
If a deal isn't reached after that, he said he would force the Legislature to vote on a short-term budget extender to keep state government operating -- perhaps until May -- with lawmakers' paychecks withheld in the meantime.
 
Cuomo suggested an extender might not be the worst scenario: He has warned for days that potential cuts in federal aid from the Trump administration should give lawmakers pause.
 
The extender would last until the preliminary federal budget comes out in late May, his aides said.
 
"Extending the state budget also allows us flexibility to adjust to future federal changes, which if enacted, could cost the state billions," Cuomo said.
 
"The federal budget comes out on May 21, and we will have more information at that time."
 
Closed process
 
Cuomo's statement capped a hectic Friday at the Capitol.
 
The Democratic-led Assembly and the Republican-controlled Senate held a series of closed-door meetings in hopes of passing a budget by the start of the fiscal year.
 
Negotiations fell apart late in the day: Senators decided to head back to their districts, only to be called back a few hours later as they tried again to reach an agreement.
 
Some senators were already halfway home and had to turn around to return to Albany.
 
Some Assembly Republicans, who were shut out of negotiations, ripped the process.
 
"Normally the Capitol isn't this quiet unless indictments are being handed out," said Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, R-Melrose, Rensselaer County, referring to the scandals at the Capitol in recent years.
 
"New Yorkers have every right to be furious with the lack of respect and openness coming from their state government.”
 

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment