New York Budget Deadline Passes

ALBANY -- The state budget is officially late.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers were unable to pass a budget by Friday's midnight deadline. In fact, it wasn't even close.

The sides have yet to announce any agreements that could be part of the state's proposed $152 billion spending plan.

The sticking points centered on whether to increase the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 and whether to increase aid to charter schools.

Also, allowing ride-hailing services outside New York City hung in the balance.

Shortly after the 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 issue a so-called budget extender to keep state government operating.

The weekend ahead

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."

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, which began Saturday.

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.

Closed process

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.”

Senators and Assembly members were set to hold private meetings Saturday to continue budget discussions.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, R-Suffolk County, said the sides were hoping to avoid a budget extender and get a final budget approved.

"We're still having full-blown discussions," he said late Friday.

Issues unsettled

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.

New York is one of only two states with the current process, but Republicans in the Senate are leery of a major overhaul, fearing it could weaken penalties for major offenses.

Democrats in the Assembly and Senate were threatening to not vote for a budget that didn't include Raise the Age.

Then there are other unresolved issues involving affordable housing in New York City, providing free SUNY tuition to income-eligible households, requiring local governments to share services and dispersing school aid.

"We have resolved the financial issues customarily included in the state budget, but complex issues such as criminal justice reform ("Raise the Age") and affordable housing should also be enacted," Cuomo said.

Joseph Spector/lohud.com


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