Top Lawmakers: Progress But No Details On New NY Budget
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The two leaders of the New York state Legislature and fellow Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo met Monday and said they were making strides in reaching an agreement on a state budget that's due in less than a week.
The update from Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins came after they emerged from another closed-door negotiation at the state Capitol with Cuomo on Monday morning.
"We're making progress," Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, said.
Heastie, D-Bronx, added: "I don't think we want to say what's in and what's out at this point."
In the balance are proposed budget provisions that would legalize recreational marijuana, eliminate cash bail for criminal defendants, and impose new vehicle tolls in central Manhattan.
While there's broad support for many of those ideas — each included in Cuomo's $175 billion spending proposal — getting legislative agreement by next week's deadline could prove difficult.
Several Democratic lawmakers joined union and business leaders from New York City at the state Capitol to release a study that projected a $60 billion positive statewide economic impact from a five-year, $44 billion capital plan sought by Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, also a Democrat. The study was commissioned by the Partnership for New York City, a business organization backing the governor's and mayor's push for tolls on vehicles entering the busiest sections of Manhattan, a plan known as congestion pricing.
Cuomo and DiBlasio have said the revenues would be invested in the city's public transportation system.
"New York City is the engine that drives the rest of the state," said Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, a Brooklyn Democrat. Without overhauling the city's subway system, "the engine will stop," she said.
Heastie told reporters before his chamber started its session Monday afternoon that the Assembly was ready to move forward on congestion pricing.
Meanwhile, Metropolitan Transportation Authority President Patrick Foye said he and other city officials would make the rounds to discuss with lawmakers the dire need for such a revenue stream to fund public transit improvements.
Cuomo included in his budget proposal a plan to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana but now concedes it may be left out because there's not yet an agreement on the measure's many details. On Monday, he sounded a slightly more optimistic note.
"We are working to try to get marijuana done," he said. "It is complex and the devil is in the details. ... If it's not done in the budget, I believe we get it done after the budget."
Other groups at the Capitol on Monday that were looking for last-minute traction ahead of the budget decision included supporters of expanding the state's bottle deposit bill to include sports drinks and other non-carbonated beverage containers, and hundreds of workers seeking a higher wage for the work they perform for nonprofit groups that provide services to people with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities.