Lawmakers head home as NY budget deal crumbles

Age Of Criminality Among Budget Speed Bumps

ALBANY -- A near-deal Tuesday on an elusive state budget quickly dissolved Wednesday, leading many lawmakers to return to their districts after failing to reach consensus with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
 
The standoff capped several days of tense negotiations, making it the latest state budget since 2010 -- when a deal wasn't reached until August. The state's fiscal year started last Saturday.
 
"Having the right resolution is more important to me than having a resolution," Cuomo said at a hastily called news conference at the Capitol. "And that’s what we’re working toward."
 
On Monday, the Legislature passed a temporary spending plan to avoid a government shutdown. That is in place until May 31.
 
But big-ticket items -- including juvenile-justice reform and funding levels for charter schools -- stalled an overall agreement. Cuomo essentially said he and lawmakers were at an impasse.
 
And by Wednesday evening, the state Senate headed home after it became clear a deal would remain out of reach. The Legislature was scheduled to start a two-week break Thursday.
 
"We have nothing to do right now," said Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse. "There's open issues, and we think ... it's costly to the taxpayers to pay per diems to legislators for sitting around in this particular fashion."
 
Deal elusive
 
For days, lawmakers and legislative staff had suggested a deal was within reach on a budget, which is expected to total more than $152 billion when it's finished.
 
Lawmakers are paid $172 a day for expenses when they are at the Capitol, and they appeared on track to get a budget, then start the break.
 
By Wednesday afternoon, the Senate and Assembly had passed more than half of the bills needed to approve a spending plan, leaving the more-controversial items for a revenue bill that remains unprinted.
 
By late Wednesday, Cuomo questioned whether a state budget deal was imminent, saying he and legislative leaders remain at odds over several key points
 
Cuomo said he and lawmakers have been unable to settle three major issues: A soon-to-take-effect boost in funding for charter schools, an affordable housing tax credit in New York City and increasing the age of criminality from age 16 to 18, a move that would keep most teens out of adult courts.
 
"As a matter of policy, 'Raise the Age,' affordable housing, these are very, very important issues that are being discussed, and we’ve not yet reached resolution," Cuomo said.
 
The governor said he and lawmakers reached agreement on some issues, such as extending an income-tax rate on millionaires in New York for two years and opening the door for Uber and Lyft to expand statewide.
 
Legislature responds
 
Lawmakers quickly pushed back against Cuomo's comments.
 
A few dozen Assembly Democrats stood behind Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, who refuted Cuomo's contention that a deal wasn't within immediate reach.
 
Heastie said the Assembly plans to remain at the Capitol Thursday to continue working toward an agreement.
 
"We made a commitment to work, and we will continue to work," he said as Democrats applauded. "We'll stay here tomorrow. We want to get a budget."
 
Some Senate Republicans took to Twitter to criticize Cuomo, with Sen. Thomas O'Mara, R-Big Flats, Chemung County, accusing the governor of "moving the goal posts to purposely keep a final agreement from happening."
 
Sen. Rich Funke, R-Perinton, Monroe County, was equally incensed: "There is only one reason we don’t have a final (budget) right now & its name is (Gov. Andrew Cuomo)," he tweeted.
 
Disagreements continue
 
Cuomo, meanwhile, suggested the budget stalemate was a result of legitimate policy disagreements. He said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Heastie have "negotiated in good faith."
 
Both the Senate and Assembly adjourned Wednesday evening, agreeing to reconvene at the call of their respective leader.
 
"If they stay, that's great," Cuomo told reporters. "I will stay here as long as they stay here."
 
Still, Cuomo expressed comfort in an extended budget delay -- the first of his tenure -- because lawmakers had approved an emergency, temporary spending plan Monday, which will keep government funded through May.
 
Cuomo said waiting until then to finalize the state's spending plan may be a good idea: New York may face significant cuts from the federal government, which will put out its initial budget in mid-May.
 
"I am looking for continued financial flexibility in the budget process," Cuomo said.
 
Lawmakers have personal financial incentive to reach a deal: By law, their paychecks will be withheld until a final budget is passed.
 
Cuomo has less incentive: He continues to receive his pay, and the temporary budget included funding for infrastructure and economic-development projects, as well as funding to keep state government operating.
 
 
 
 

 

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