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New York state budget talks drag on with no resolution in sight

The New York State Capitol.
New York Now
The New York State Capitol.

The New York state budget is now two weeks late, and lawmakers are due back Monday afternoon to pass a fourth extender to keep government running. 

Republicans, who are in the minority party in state government, criticized Democrats, including Gov. Kathy Hochul and the leaders of the Legislature, for failing to come to an accord on a spending plan that was due April 1.

Sen. Tom O’Mara, the ranking Republican member on the Senate Finance Committee, spoke Thursday on the floor as a third budget extender was approved.

“We should be working far more diligently to get this job done,” O’Mara said. “Rather than just extending the budget deadline.” 

Issues that are dividing Hochul and the Democrats in the Legislature include a housing package, how to distribute school aid, and how much to spend on Medicaid, including whether to make changes to a popular home health care program. 

Hochul and the Democratic leaders have said little publicly about exactly what divides them or the status of negotiations.

Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay decried the lack of transparency. He said in earlier days, the Albany adage was “three men in a room” to describe the private meetings held between governors and the two majority-party legislative leaders. Now, he said, there are two women and one man, but the dynamic has not changed.

“(It) used to be always three men in the room,” Barclay said. “(You) don't hear much about that now there's three Dems in the room.”

Sen. Jim Tedisco, also a Republican, said his constituents don’t like the secrecy, and they don’t like it when lawmakers don’t meet their deadlines. He compared the situation to the recent total solar eclipse.

“They said it would take 24 years to have the second eclipse. I never thought we'd see the second eclipse so soon,” Tedisco said. “Because it's happening right here on the New York state budget right now. Total darkness.”

Senate Finance Committee Chair Liz Krueger, who is part of the Democratic majority, said there is “frustration” over the budget delays. But she said her constituents would rather have a good budget that’s slightly late than an on-time spending plan that doesn’t address some key items.

“As long as we are paying our bills, we are assuring people that the government of New York state continues to operate,” Krueger said. “I actually think our constituents probably are talking to us about specific issues in the budget that they hope are in the final budget, or hope are not in (the budget).

“That’s exactly what we are trying to do,” Krueger continued.

Krueger said a budget agreement might be reached next week, before the Passover holiday begins on April 22. But, she conceded, it might not be.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.