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CNY state lawmakers express frustration over lack of budget transparency

Governor Kathy Hochul delivers her state of the state address as state comptroller Tom DiNapoli peeks out from behind Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie Jan. 9, 2024.
Don Pollard
Office of Governor Kathy Hochul
Governor Kathy Hochul delivers her state of the state address as state comptroller Tom DiNapoli peeks out from behind Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. Lt. Gov Antonio Delgado is behind Hochul, and Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins is in front of Attorney General Letitia James Jan. 9, 2024.

There’s growing bi-partisan frustration among some state lawmakers in Central New York with how budget negotiations are being conducted.  The budget is now two weeks late with no end in sight. 

Republican state senator Joe Griffo of Rome sums up budget transparency from legislative leaders this way.

“It was timely that we had an eclipse where we had all the darkness, because that's what the budget process has been like in Albany over the last month,” Griffo said.

 In the other chamber, Democratic Assemblymember Bill Magnarelli feels much the same.

“Everybody is asking the same questions. Where are we? Where are the negotiations," Magnarelli said. "If I knew, I would probably not be able to tell you. But to be honest with you, I don’t know.”

Both he and Griffo have been through numerous budget cycles during their 25 and 17 years in office respectively. But Magnarelli says rank and file lawmakers are not getting updates like they used to.

 “What's happening this year is that there have been less conferences to discuss what took place with the three people in the room," Magnarelli said. "That in some years is worse than others. This has been probably the worst.”

Senator Joe Griffo says a process is in place to keep members more directly involved and updated through a conference committee process, but it's not being followed.

“Those meetings are very limited," Griffo said. "There's only been one and they don't even have table target numbers like within those areas, whether it's in transportation or higher education, where somebody knows how much money that is available to spend.”

 Griffo questions the commitment of Governor Hochul and legislative leaders, all Democrats, to meet and resolve issues.

 “It's really unacceptable that we continue to face these short term extenders and there appears to be no real legitimate progress being made," Griffo said. "You have a governor who has been in Washington DC and in Niagara Falls, not in the state capitol. And you have a speaker who's talking in riddles. So I think that they really need to roll up their sleeves.”

Lawmakers are due back Monday afternoon to pass a fourth extender. Meanwhile, Griffo says the entities that depend on state funding are feeling the effects of a late budget.

“This will now begin to negatively impact school districts who are preparing budgets for the public to review and vote on local governments who now have Rd. programs that they need to begin as we're in the spring, also state employees. Have to continually look over their shoulder to determine whether or not they're gonna get a paycheck, so this is unacceptable.”

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at