‘Tremendous Progress’ But Silver A No-Show For Budget Meeting
The leaders of the state Senate’s majority coalition met for roughly an hour with Gov. Andrew Cuomo Monday morning, but Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was no where to be found on the second floor of the Capitol.
Still, despite the absence of the powerful Assembly speaker, both Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos and Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein reported headway in the budget talks.
“I think we’re making tremendous progress,” Skelos said after the meeting. “I sense that it’s about narrowing some of the numbers and we’re on track to have an on-time budget.”
Skelos on Friday left a four-way leaders meeting complaining that Silver had steered the negotiations toward New York City issues that benefited Mayor Bill de Blasio and not the rest of the state.
The move was a dose of political theater that was no where to be seen Monday. By contrast, Skelos, a Long Island Republican, said the talks centered around a statewide balance.
“I think everybody is laying out there point of view. I’ve always said it’s about balance throughout the state and we’re moving in that direction,” Skelos.
Negotiations with Cuomo have centered around property taxes, renters’ relief and pre-Kindergarten funding.
“I think we’re slowly but surely coming to an agreement on property tax relief, renters relief and ensuring we have a fully funded pre-k program,” Klein said.
Also under discussion have been charter schools and co-location agreements in New York City.
Cuomo has been pushing for a “freeze” on property tax increases through capping increases and sharing services on the local level. The plan has been met with opposition in the Legislature, but Cuomo has shifted toward concessions, including a look-back period.
The Dream Act, a proposal that faltered in the state Senate last week by two votes, was not discussed, despite a push by Latino lawmakers to include it in the finalized state budget.
“We didn’t discuss that today and I think what we need to do is really focus on the issues at hand,” Klein said, listing both pre-K, property taxes and a statewide housing program as examples.
The budget must be approved by March 31, next Monday, in order for it be considered “on time.”
That means, however, a deal must be struck by Thursday or Friday at the latest in order for bills to be printed and aged without a message of necessity.
Skelos, meanwhile, was hopeful for an agreement today or tomorrow.