Skelos: ‘Tremendous Progress’ Toward Ethics Deal
There’s been “tremendous progress” on reaching an ethics agreement between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Republicans in the Senate, Majority Leader Dean Skelos on Thursday said.
“I think we’re making tremendous progress with the ethics legislation, cooperating with the governor, working with him,” Skelos said.
Cuomo has already come to an agreement with Assembly Democrats on an ethics package, which includes new disclosure requirements of legal clients, per diem reform and campaign finance measures.
Senate Republicans, however, have raised concerns with Cuomo over the disclosure piece and have been negotiating the finer points of Cuomo’s proposal for the last several days.
The budget is due to be passed by Tuesday, the last day of the state’s fiscal year.
“I believe we’re going to have an ethics deal by March 31,” Skelos said.
Cuomo has said he won’t sign off on a budget without ethics legislation included in the final agreement.
Still, major aspects of the $142 billion budget appeared to be closing down on Thursday as lawmakers reach key agreements or abandon more contentious policy matters to later in the session.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie emerged from a closed-door meeting with Cuomo to lawmakers were “still negotiating” before then ducking into a conference with majority Democrats.
Democrats are yet to come to an agreement with Cuomo on education reform measures he is seeking and the governor continues to link a funding increase to his policy proposals.
Meanwhile, Skelos gave mixed signals on whether an education commission, which would be charged with developing criteria for teacher evaluations and potentially other reforms, will still be included in the final deal.
“There’s some sort of a thing like that,” Skelos said. “I don’t know if the commission is still there.”
Skelos said Republicans are “in sync” with the governor on education issues, but no three-way agreement has been reached.
Senate Republicans, however, have raised concerns with how more than $5 billion of a windfall surplus should be spent.
Cuomo has proposed a variety of avenues to spend the money, including directing money to the Thruway Authority, expanding access to broadband Internet service and an economic development competition for upstate regions.
“This should be linked to economic development and job creation,” Skelos said. “That’s my concern. This is not CHIPS funding that goes to the local communities to help the superintendents of highways to repair roads. This has to go to create jobs.”
As for the upstate competition — a $1.5 billion program — Skelos raised concerns with the winners and losers aspect.
“We’re not opposed to that investment upstate. What we don’t think is there should be three winners and four losers,” he said, adding, “It shouldn’t be region against region. it should be project against project.”
The lowest award possible in the program would be higher than what winners received in the economic development council awards.
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