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NYS budget talks drag on, with no resolution in sight

The New York state Capitol building at night.
Matt Ryan
New York NOW
The New York state Capitol building at night.

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 Governor Kathy Hochul and the leaders of the Legislature, for failing to come to an accord on a spending plan that was due April 1st.

Senator Tom O’Mara, the ranking GOP 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 says 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 says, 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.”

Senator Jim Tedisco, also a Republican, made an analogy to the recent total solar eclipse, saying his constituents don’t like the secrecy, and they don’t like it when lawmakers don’t meet their deadlines.

“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, admits there is widespread?? “frustration” over the budget delays. But she says her constituents would rather have a good budget that’s slightly late than an on-time spending plan that didn’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 in the final budget, or hope are not in (the budget).”

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

Krueger says a budget agreement might be reached this week, before the Passover holiday begins on April 22nd. But, she concedes it might not be.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment and interviews newsmakers. Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.