Saturday, March 26, 2016

Cuomo Talks Budget Progress

State budget talks are ongoing at the Capitol, as state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo extend the negotiations into the weekend over the $154 billion spending plan due next Thursday. 

Cuomo addressed reporters at the Capitol on Friday afternoon, only to say the status of the talks remains more or less the same. 

“We’ve been having good conversations on the budget and the conversations are ongoing. There’s nothing dramatically new. 

Cuomo would not rule out issuing what are known as messages of necessity, waiving the three day aging process for bills. The budget is due next Thursday and lawmakers are set to return Monday after the Easter weekend. 

Lawmakers this week privately said the belief was an agreement could come as soon as Monday on the spending plan, with the negotiations this year centering around increasing the state’s $9 minimum wage to $15 and creating a 12-week paid family leave program. 

Still, there has been at least one new component to the budget mix following the Brussels terrorist attacks this week — an effort to strengthen security around the state. 

Cuomo left the details vague, but said it was something proposed by Senate Republicans this week. 

“We’re talking about a number of initiatives generally security related, more sharing of information, better use of the state police,” he said. 

When it comes to increasing the state’s minimum wage to $15, Cuomo insisted he is supportive of that target hitting all regions of the state, but over different time periods. 

“My proposal is $15 upstate-downstate,” Cuomo said. “My proposal has different phase in times by design because you have different economies in this state.”

Those phase-ins, however, could take longer for upstate as well as the New York City suburban counties. Cuomo confirmed a longer phase in for the New York City suburbs has been part of the closed-door talks. 

“You can have more nuances,” hes said. “You can say Long Island is a separate region. That’s part of the conversation.”

Meanwhile, business groups are pushing to have funding for upstate transportation projects match commitments to the MTA capital fund. Cuomo indicated he doesn’t want to match upstate-downstate dollar for dollar, but said he upstate will get a fair slice of the pie.

However, he quibbled with the word “parity” that has been deployed by a business-backed campaign to push for more upstate road, bridge and tunnel work. 

“Will there be fairness? Yes,” he said. “The word they use his parity. But, what’s your definition of parity?”

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