Senate looks to finish NY budget

ALBANY - The state Senate plans to convene Sunday night to give final approval to the state budget.

Now more than a week late, the $153 billion budget was approved by the Assembly on Saturday afternoon.

The Senate left the Capitol in frustration on Wednesday night when talks between lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo broke down.

But late Friday, Cuomo announced the sides reached an agreement, and the Democratic-led Assembly stayed in Albany through Saturday to approve the final pieces of the budget.

"It really did a lot of great work, this budget, on a number of levels," Cuomo said Sunday on 970-AM in Manhattan.

Now it is the Republican-controlled Senate's turn to wrap up the budget, which was due March 31.

Lawmakers have had their paychecks withheld until a budget is approved. A 1999 state law doesn't let legislators get paid when a budget is late.

The agreement includes free SUNY tuition this fall for those households earning $100,000 a year, and it increases to a $125,000 threshold by 2019. SUNY tuition is $6,470 a year.

The budget also includes legalizing ride-hailing services outside New York City, raising the age of criminal responsibility from age 16 to 18 and requiring local governments to find ways to share services to lower costs.

Cuomo has hailed the budget, highlighting the free SUNY tuition piece as a national model. The Democratic governor is speculated as a potential presidential candidate in 2020.

"If you're a young person who wants success in a career, a college education is necessary," Cuomo said on the radio show.  He added, "That's a life changer, I believe, the college affordability."

The 63-seat Senate is scheduled to go into session at 5 p.m. Sunday and work into the night to pass the budget, which also includes a $1.1 billion increase in aid to the state's roughly 700 public schools.  The Legislature is supposed to be on a two-week break.

"All New Yorkers scored a victory with this budget, as the Senate led the way on controlling state spending, protecting the taxpayer and making critical investments in measures that will protect public health and grow our economy," Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, R-Suffolk County, said in a statement.

Senate Democrats, though, have been critical of budget process and some of the pieces that didn't make it in the final plan, such as allowing undocumented immigrants to receive tuition assistance and ethics reform.

"This budget deal moves us forward, but we can do more to protect New Yorkers’ rights and build a stronger, fairer state," Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, said in a statement.

Joseph Spector, Albany Bureau Chief


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