Capitol Watch: Budget Talks Heat Up As Deadline Looms
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — In New York state government news, it's crunch time for lawmakers looking to put together a new state budget and the state Senate votes to take funds away from so-called sanctuary cities.
A look at stories making news:
The next two weeks are likely to be some of the busiest of the year as lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo work to pass a new state budget before the April 1 deadline.
Cuomo unveiled his $168 billion budget recommendation in January. Lawmakers dissected the document over the last two months and offered up some of their own ideas.
"We've held approximately 100 hours of public budget hearings," said Senate Leader John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican. "Now, we must finish the job."
First, however, lawmakers must come to agreements on a long list of issues, including many policy proposals that have little to do with state finances. The Senate's Republican leaders want new funding for armed officers in schools while the Assembly's Democratic majority favors new restrictions on firearm ownership.
The Assembly backs the Dream Act, which would extend financial aid to students who entered the country illegally as children; the Senate opposes the idea and instead wants to crack down on local governments that refuse to fully cooperate with federal immigration officials.
Meanwhile, a measure that would extend the statute of limitations for child molestation — and allow victims to sue over decades-old abuse allegations — is supported by the Assembly and Cuomo, but has been held up in the Senate.
Depending on the negotiations, some of the proposals could make it in the budget or be dropped entirely if compromise proves elusive.
Taxes and fees are another big sticking point. The Assembly's Democratic majority is backing higher taxes on the wealthy, a proposal likely to be blocked by the Senate. Republicans in that chamber are also fighting against Cuomo's call for $1 billion in new fees and taxes, including a tax on opioid prescriptions intended to raise money to combat addiction.
There's also talk of imposing a new surcharge on Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing services, with the money earmarked for New York City subway repairs and other transportation projects. The Assembly budget plan includes surcharges, the Senate recommendation does not.
The state's new fiscal year begins April 1, and lawmakers will have to scramble to pass a budget on time. This year's schedule is more complicated than most years because of the Jewish Passover and Christian Easter holidays. April 1 falls on Easter Sunday, with Good Friday and the start of Passover two days earlier.
Lawmakers say they hope to pass a budget by Thursday, putting even more pressure on lawmakers to wrap up negotiations.
"The clock is running out," Sen. Tim Kennedy, a Buffalo Democrat, said Thursday.
A bill penalizing cities that don't cooperate with federal immigration authorities is heading to the Assembly.
The measure would cut off state funding for cities where officials have enacted policies prohibiting them from sharing information about the immigration status of people in custody. It passed the Senate Wednesday.
New York City, Rochester, Syracuse and other local communities around the state have all adopted sanctuary city policies and could stand to lose billions of dollars in state aid if the measure is signed into law.
That's unlikely to happen, however, as the Assembly's Democratic majority and Cuomo both oppose the idea. But GOP senators insist the measure isn't just political posturing.
"We should not be providing a sanctuary to those persons who have come here illegally and get arrested by then giving them the chance to avoid deportation," said Sen. Tom Croci, a Long Island Republican.