State lawmakers to extend budget through May

Cuomo Extends State Budget

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday that New York lawmakers will extend the state budget through May to avoid a government shutdown, a move that will likely keep them from getting paid until June.

Cuomo and the state Legislature spent the weekend locked in impasse as they tried to reach an agreement on a roughly $152 billion spending plan for the state's fiscal year, which was already two days late.

The contentious stalemate led Cuomo to issue a lengthy statement around midnight, saying legislative leaders have agreed extend the state's recently expired budget through May.

Lawmakers are expected to approve the emergency measure Monday.

"Given the inability of both houses to reach an agreement, I am sending up an extender of the current budget to keep the government fully functioning until May 31," Cuomo said. "I have spoken to both leaders who have agreed to pass the extender bill by tomorrow afternoon, which is the necessary deadline to keep government fully functioning.”

The move will stave off a potential state government shutdown and ensure state employees will receive their regular paychecks, which are due Wednesday. But it's likely to anger school districts, who rely in part on state funding and have to put their budgets to a vote in mid-May. And it could inflame increasing tensions between Cuomo and rank-and-file lawmakers, who by law will have their pay withheld until a full budget is approved.

After three months of negotiations, Cuomo and lawmakers blew through Friday's deadline to have a state budget in place, with a final agreement hindered by lingering disagreements over juvenile-justice reform, education funding and other outstanding issues.

The planned $152 billion spending plan is the now latest since 2010, when the budget wasn't approved until early August. But the sides were hopeful Sunday that a deal was near — as in hours or days, not months. The state's fiscal year started Saturday. "I think there is general optimism that we’re close to having a final agreement on all the outstanding issues," Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, D-New City, Rockland County, said Sunday afternoon, well before Cuomo's statement.

In his lengthy statement, Cuomo pointed to the federal government, warning that potential cuts to the state's federal funding could wreak havoc on New York's budget, which relies heavily on funding from the U.S. government. He said the state will know more in May, when President Trump is required to release a more-detailed budget plan. But there were a host of state-level issues holding up a budget deal, and bills had not even been printed as of early Sunday night. Lawmakers held another round of private meetings late Sunday, but there was no resolution.

The major point of contention has been a Democratic plan to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York from 16 to 18, a move that would keep most teenagers from being tried as adults. Other issues like authorizing ride-hailing services outside New York City had been settled, but won't be approved until there's a final budget deal.
Legislative leaders revealed little about the ongoing talks Sunday. 

Even high-ranking lawmakers said they were unsure of the state of negotiations. Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, turned his palms toward the sky as he left the GOP's office Sunday afternoon.
In a statement late Friday, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, said his chamber is ready to pass Cuomo's extender. "The Assembly is prepared to pass a temporary budget extender should one be necessary to avoid a shutdown of government while we resolve these issues," he said.

Lawmakers' frustration with the ongoing budget stalemate grew increasingly public Sunday. Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, said this year's budget negotiations "feel a bit dysfunctional." Her conference of 22 Senate Democrats have threatened to boycott any budget votes unless they include a measure to no longer treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the state's criminal-justice system. Such a move could have helped prevent the Senate from getting a quorum for budget votes. "We're here hanging around for hours, waiting for things to happen," Stewart-Cousins said after a meeting in Cuomo's office. "There's a deal, but then there isn't a deal. It just seems that this is really a very, very, bumpy budget season."

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