With No Deal, Cuomo Will Ask for Emergency Budget Measures

ALBANY — Faced with a recalcitrant Legislature and a failed negotiating strategy, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said late Sunday that he would introduce emergency legislation to keep the state government in operation after efforts to pass a state budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year faltered during weekend-long talks.

The fiscal year began at the stroke of midnight on Friday with no deal in place, though the governor requested that lawmakers stay in Albany over the weekend, extending the workweek in the hope that the extra time would result in a flurry of deals. He called it a “grace period.”

By Sunday evening, however, that hope had not blossomed into a budget. And with lawmakers seeming to be at odds over a rotating roster of issues, Mr. Cuomo said he would introduce a so-called extender bill, which effectively freezes spending at last year’s level, in order “to keep government fully functioning.”

In a lengthy and wide-ranging statement, Mr. Cuomo — a Democrat with a rising national profile — said that such a maneuver was necessary because of the threat of future federal budget cuts and was something he said the Legislature had agreed to approve on Monday.

But the bill was also the byproduct of a strategy of incorporating major policy debates inside the state budget, a longstanding — and continually contentious — tactic that Mr. Cuomo has used in the past. In this case, it is the question of raising the age of criminal responsibility that has consistently been mentioned as the stumbling block to a deal, something acknowledged by the governor in his statement, as he referred to “political and ideological differences between the Senate and Assembly.”

“We must resolve these issues,” he said. “A complete budget requires it.”

The extender would also have a seemingly punitive side effect for the legislators, who would not be paid during its duration. And the governor’s submitting an extender that would last until the end of May — when the federal budget would come into focus — could mean a prolonged stretch without paychecks for lawmakers.

In a statement issued just before the governor’s on Sunday night, the speaker of the Assembly, Carl E. Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, said that his chamber was willing to pass an extender but added that Assembly members were “having productive talks with our partners in government” and would be “working hard through the night to resolve the remaining issues.”

Indeed, the stalled talks in Albany had added a touch of late-night drama to the Capitol, as the Republican-led Senate continued meeting until after midnight. Like the Assembly, the Senate planned to return to Capitol on Monday to pass the extender bill and continue discussions on the broader budget.

The late budget was becoming an increasingly painful return to form for the state’s lawmakers — budgets were commonly late during the 1980s and 1990s — and a political black eye for Mr. Cuomo, a centrist Democrat who has prided himself on being a pragmatic and efficient steward of the state government.

With the initial deadline having been missed on Friday, lawmakers had spent the weekend in the capital, even as leaders on both sides of the aisle continually expressed confidence about a looming deal. But the list of contested policies continued to percolate, including a renewal for 421-a, a lapsed tax-cut program for developers; support for charter schools; changes to the workers’ compensation system; and education aid. Each of those issues had been said to be near a final deal in recent days, without any actual legislation materializing. With lobbyists still camped out in the halls of the Capitol, no votes were taken on budget bills on Saturday or Sunday.

Not that discussions were not going on. Mr. Heastie and the leader of the Senate majority, John J. Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, were stalking the hallways outside their chambers on Sunday, briefing members and giving updates short on both words and information.

“Things are going well,” Mr. Heastie said as he rushed to a meeting with his members late Sunday afternoon. “But there’s no finality on anything.”

The question of criminal responsibility was consistently mentioned as one of the knottiest problems.

New York is one of two states, along with North Carolina, that treat 16- and 17-year-old defendants as adults, which many progressive groups see as a dubious distinction. A proposal to initially deal with 16- and 17-year-olds in a new Youth Court has garnered the support of liberal Democrats and more centrist politicians like Mr. Cuomo and the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group of Democrats who collaborate with the Republicans, allowing that party to control Albany’s upper chamber.

In talks over the issue, Republican negotiators have sought a series of stipulations in the name of public safety that have drawn a strong response from many of the Democrats who control the Assembly. As is often the case in Albany’s budget dance, negotiations have been one step forward, one step back. As early as Tuesday, Mr. Cuomo announced that there was a tentative deal to “raise the age” — as the campaign is known — but the details proved elusive.

Joseph R. Lentol, a veteran Brooklyn assemblyman who has been central to the chamber’s efforts to pass the measure, said on Sunday that some issues he believed had been settled were still vexing, including raising the eligibility age for so-called youthful offender treatment — meaning that a defendant’s records are sealed.

But Mr. Lentol said that an initial offer to raise that age to 21, from 19, had run afoul of Republican staff members. “That was agreed to, but somehow it got lost,” he said.

The effective date of a change in the age of responsibility — which would divert many 16- and 17-year-old defendants to family court, rather than criminal court — was also in question.

Like others, Mr. Lentol had held out hope for a deal on Sunday night, but it was not to be. After a three-hour conference, the Democrats in the Assembly broke just before 11 p.m. with nothing new to say, even as Senate Republicans remained cloistered near their chambers.

There was a time when Mr. Cuomo would celebrate his ability to broker an on-time budget for New York with a snappy slogan and concomitant keepsakes. In 2014, for instance, when his fourth consecutive budget arrived on schedule, Mr. Cuomo labeled it a “grand slam” and posed with a baseball and a commemorative bat.

But on Sunday, there was no doubt that the talks over the late budget — already the latest in Mr. Cuomo’s tenure — had been a grueling reminder of the sometimes-challenging work of governing, and an inspiration for gallows humor.

“I’m not optimistic; I’m not pessimistic,” said Senator John A. DeFrancisco, a Syracuse-area Republican who serves as deputy majority leader. “I’m numb.”

Original link (*NYTimes):

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/02/nyregion/new-york-state-budget-andrew-cuomo-albany.html