State backs off N.Y.’s first government shutdown, but lawmakers fail to agree on budget
ALBANY — State leaders Sunday did not reach a budget agreement but nonetheless appeared poised to back down from the brink of New York’s first-ever government shutdown.
In a lengthy statement released just before midnight, Gov. Cuomo said the inability of state leaders to reach an agreement on a new budget that is already three days late has forced him to submit legislation to extend the previous year spending through the end of May.
Cuomo said legislative leaders have agreed by Monday afternoon to pass the extender that will allow government to continue to operate. By law, lawmakers will not get paid until a new budget is adopted.
Citing the potential for massive federal cuts to the state as well as policy changes in Washington that could threaten women and immigrants, Cuomo said a final state budget is needed to address key issues.
Among them is raising the age to 18 that a teen can be charged as an adult in criminal court, and the need to release $2 billion in money to combat homelessness that was approved in 2015.
“The looming threats from Washington leave us with two options: Our state budget must either fully anticipate and address our human and financial needs or we must keep working to reach compromise on the reform issues and remain financially cautious so we can adapt to federal actions once they are determined,” Cuomo said.
He added that “the Legislature has not been able to reach total agreement on all issues necessary for a complete annual agenda. Raise the Age and affordable housing are especially controversial politically, but necessary governmentally. I will not accept ‘half a loaf’ on these issues.”
Extending the previous budget through May will give state leaders time to continue to work on those issues while bracing for potential federal cuts that will be outlined on May 21.
In a separate statement, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D- Bronx) said the Legislature and governor “will be working hard through the night to resolve the remaining issues.”
But he added that “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.”
Throughout Sunday, with the state in its second day without a budget in place, legislative leaders said negotiations with Cuomo made progress but final agreements were elusive.
As it has been all week, a proposal to raise the age at which teens can be charged with a crime as adults from 16 to 18 remained the critical stumbling block.
“There’s no finality on anything — still open issues,” Heastie (D-Bronx) said just after 4 p.m.
Early in the day lawmakers had hoped to begin passing budget bills in the afternoon. That did not happen.
Instead, the Senate Republicans and Assembly Democrats each spent hours behind closed doors discussing the negotiations and where to go from here. Cuomo and lawmakers had until midnight Friday to reach agreement on a new spending plan before the start of the 2017-18 fiscal year.
The blown deadline means that New York technically lacks the authority to spend money. But lawmakers said they did not expect the situation to pose any real hardships until midweek, when the state begins a new pay period.
Cuomo, who has in prior years boasted that his administration put an end to New York’s reputation for late budgets, proclaimed early Saturday morning that he was giving lawmakers a “grace period” of the weekend to conclude negotiations. They did not, setting up the possible extender.
Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle earlier in the evening said the hope was to come to a deal on a full budget agreement without extenders. “We’ll continue to work as long as it takes to get this done,” Morelle said. “This is really important what we’re doing, and even if it is taking a little longer than any of us would like, it’s important and we’re going to make sure we get it right.”
Assembly Democrats, after hours of meeting behind closed doors, left the Capitol at around 11 p.m. They are due back Monday morning.
Democratic leaders, including Bronx Sen. Jeffrey Klein, head of the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference, have said they are unwilling to accept a budget without a raise-the-age agreement.
On Sunday afternoon, the Senate’s mainline Democratic Conference called on Klein’s group not to take their seats in the chamber until a deal on raising the age is reached —a move that would deny the Senate’s GOP leadership of a quorum.
The mainline Democrats have been warring for years with Klein’s independent conference over their decision to form an alliance with the Senate GOP.
“With negotiations continuing, passing some budget bills before talks conclude will weaken efforts to achieve real reforms in this budget,” said Mike Murphy, a spokesman for the mainline Democrats.
The independent Democrats “should stand up and help Senate Democrats maximize our ability to achieve a real raise-the-age solution, and that means preventing Senate Republicans from advancing only parts of the budget to the detriment of outstanding issues,” said Mike Murphy, a spokesman for the mainline Dems. Raising the age of criminal responsibility has proven to be by far the most stubborn policy issue in the budget.
A plan floated by Cuomo would allow youths charged with misdemeanors and other non-violent offenses to be diverted to Family Court, while those charged with violent and other serious crimes would be handled by a special youth court created within the criminal court system.
That plan, however, has met stiff resistance from Democrats in the Assembly and Senate, who want more of the offenses to be handled by Family Court —a stance that the GOP-controlled Senate and many district attorneys oppose.
Other issues that needed to be resolved Sunday included funding for education and charter schools, and an effort to revive an expired tax credit for developers who build affordable housing.
“It’s the same issues that we’ve been talking about for six weeks,” Heastie said after emerging from a meeting with Cuomo and other leaders of the Legislature.
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