New York City

NY State Budget Talks Collapse, Senate Walks Out

New York state budget talks collapsed Wednesday night after members of the Senate left the Capitol, with lawmakers from both parties blaming Gov. Andrew Cuomo for scuttling negotiations over the spending plan, now several days late.

Members of the Senate and Assembly insist they were close to an agreement and hoped to pass a budget this week after blowing past a Saturday deadline. Those hopes eroded Wednesday night after Cuomo summoned reporters to his office to say that while he would continue to negotiate, there were still significant disputes when it came to key budget priorities.

"What is happening right now is ridiculous," said Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers. "Dysfunction and chaos has descended on Albany. This situation has spiraled out of control and New Yorkers deserve better."

On Monday, at Cuomo's insistence, lawmakers passed a two-month budget extension to ensure vital government functions continued until a final budget deal was approved. Cuomo said the extension, which also included funds for several big transportation and economic development projects, would give lawmakers time to reach a good deal.

"No one wants to be in a position where the budget is late," the Democrat told reporters. "... I am doing the best I can to bring them to closure. But I also know they have very strong opinions on both sides."

Republican Senate Leader John Flanagan of Long Island said he would call the Senate back into session when a deal is reached. Members of the Assembly said they would return Thursday in hopes of reviving the talks.

Major sticking points included education spending and an affordable housing tax credit for New York City developers. Another dispute centered on a Democratic proposal to raise the age of adult criminal responsibility from 16 to 18.

As late as Wednesday evening, lawmakers said they were close to resolution, and both chambers had begun voting on budget bills.

"Sometimes it feels like we get to the five-yard line and then we get pushed back a little bit," said Sen. Rich Funke, a Rochester-area Republican, who said negotiations were down to "a couple" of small issues. "We're close. We're very close. We need to get it wrapped up tonight."

Lawmakers won't get paid until a budget is passed.

The failure to reach a deal is a defeat for legislative leaders and Cuomo, a possible White House contender in 2020 who touted a string of on-time budgets early in his tenure as evidence Albany had ended its tradition of government dysfunction.

Sen. John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, said Cuomo began raising new budget issues for the first time Wednesday, a move which complicated the talks.

"We're supposed to be moving toward conclusion of a budget," he said. "It's now April 5, for the first time this morning the governor's office raised the issue of (funding for indigent) legal defense. ... We can't continue to close something down if you keep raising new issues."

Frustrated Democrats in the Assembly were more pointed.

"There's bipartisan agreement that the governor is the problem and has subtly sabotaged the negotiations," said Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, D-Westchester County.

The proposed spending plan also included greater college tuition assistance, an increase of $1 billion for education spending and $2.5 billion for upgrades to the state's water infrastructure.

It also would allow Uber and Lyft to expand into upstate cities like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany. The two app-based ride-hailing services are now limited to the New York City area.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us