N.Y. budget talks stall again; Gov. Cuomo calls for extender

Raise the Age measure continues to be stumbling block

“Albany Lacking agreement on a plan to get more teens covered under juvenile rather than adult criminal laws, legislators on Sunday night missed the latest deadline for the 2017-18 budget, prompting Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as promised, to call for a temporary bare bones budget extender that will keep the state operating until at least May 31.

Lawmakers are expected to return to the Capitol Monday morning and pass that measure.

“I said that I would allow the weekend for a grace period. 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 in a prepared statement issued shortly before midnight.

”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 came about an hour after Assembly Democrats were sent home without voting on anything but told to return at 9 a.m. Monday.

“Everybody is going to keep working. We’re back here at 9 a.m.,” said Albany Democratic Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy. “There’s no interest in seeing a government shutdown,” she added.

Without even a government operations budget bill, money to run the state payroll would stop this week without an extender.

Even though the budget deadline was April 1, Cuomo just after midnight Friday said he was offering a weekend long “grace period” for lawmakers to hammer out their differences.

By the end of May, Congress is set to release its latest spending plan, which can impact state finances if there are cutbacks in programs such as Medicaid or removal of local property tax writeoffs.

In announcing the extender, Cuomo took aim at the Republican-controlled Congress, characterizing members as enemies of New York state.

“New York state is a target for hostile federal actions ranging from severe financial cutbacks to deprivation of legal and personal rights,” he said.

As was the case for the past few days, lawmakers cited a number of disagreements standing in the way of a final $150 billion-plus budget. While Raise the Age topped the list, there were also disagreements over school funding, a charter school cap and a free tuition plan for SUNY and CUNY schools.

There was some progress, though.

Earlier in the day Sunday, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said she was “cautiously optimistic” that city would get the $12.5 million it had been seeking from the state to close a budget shortfall.

Capital Region lawmakers agreed, saying they felt confident the money was coming but they didn’t want to comment further.

Sheehan, like other city officials, has argued that the numerous tax exempt properties in Albany, including state government buildings, has helped create a long-term funding shortage due to the lost revenue.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the money would come as a new recurring line item or, as was the case last year, a “spin-up” or advance on long-term payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs the city gets for the Empire State Plaza.

Without the funding, Sheehan said the city would face draconian cuts to items like recreation programs and special events and numerous city workforce vacancies would go unfilled.

Raise the Age legislation, which Democrats had made a priority, remained as the major stumbling block to finalizing the budget.

Democrats want to raise from 16 to 18 the age for criminal responsibility for serious crimes. If passed, teens between 16 and 18 could be tried in family court or in special youth courts rather than adult courts.

But Republicans wanted limitations, such as with crimes where guns were used or other instances in which the teens could continue to be tried as adults.

The debate was emblematic of the different sensibilities of the relatively conservative upstate and suburban Republicans who control the Senate, and the more liberal downstate Democrats who predominate in the Assembly.

By making this issue a part of budget negotiations, it created a major rift. But if it weren’t in the budget, there were fears it could fall by the wayside after the budget is set.

Cuomo, since entering office in 2011, has repeatedly pointed to on-time budgets as a sign that he’s made government more efficient.

Budgets have hit the April 1 deadline in all but the last two years when they were finished from three hours to a day after the deadline.

By Monday the budget will be at least three days late.

The on-time budget push is symbolic, and Cuomo has made it a metric of government efficiency, especially compared to previous governors such as former Gov. George Pataki. Under Pataki, budget talks sometimes ran well into the summer.

There is, however, some urgency for local schools, which this month are setting their spending plans for the coming year.

The question of when there would be a detailed budget agreement has been on-again, off-again since late last week.

Overnight Saturday, sources said the framework of a budget deal, which one source said included Raise the Age, had been agreed to by legislative leaders and Cuomo, though it was pending sign-off by the full Legislature.

One source said expansion of ride-hailing outside of New York City, details of which emerged last week, was also signed off on by all parties.

But a spokesman for Assembly Democratic Majority Speaker Carl Heastie said Sunday morning that “any talk of a ‘deal’ is jumping the gun” as the Assembly Democrats were set for a conference meeting later in the day.

There was some confusion in the afternoon as Assembly Democrats prepared to go into a conference meeting that eventually was pushed until the evening. Democratic Assemblyman Joe Lentol, who has been among those negotiating Raise the Age, said there was miscommunication to some staff that led to some Raise the Age agreements becoming “lost in the translation.” He said those miscommunications could be cleared up, though.

Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein’s eight-member Independent Democratic Conference as well as mainline Democrats said they wouldn’t vote for a budget without Raise the Age.

With those two groups staying away, the Republicans, who with Democrat Simcha Felder can achieve a 32-vote majority, still wouldn’t have the 38 members needed to form a quorum required for budget appropriations.

rkarlin@timesunion.com518-454-5758@RickKarlinTU

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