Governor Cuomo ended a weekend of gridlocked budget negotiations by proposing a stopgap measure to keep the state funded and avert a shutdown after the legislature blew its Friday deadline. Legislators have to pass the proposed temporary spending plan this afternoon or state functions could grind to a halt and government workers could stop getting paid.
In a statement released late last night, Cuomo pointed to the "ultraconservative Congress" and uncertainties posed by President Trump's threats to federal funding make the New York budget a "statement of values." In negotiations, state Republican legislators balked at including language that would end New York's practice of charging 16- and 17-year-olds accused of crimes as adults (New York is one of two states in the nation to do this). Their opposition was so vehement that it tied up the entire budget, but Cuomo wrote that the change "must pass" in a new budget. He also demanded inclusion of a renewal of the developer-friendly 421-a tax break program, which is supposed to stimulate the construction of affordable housing, but largely hasn't.
"Our state budget must either fully anticipate and address our human and financial needs or we must keep working to reach compromise on the reform issues and remain financially cautious so we can adapt to federal actions once they are determined," Cuomo wrote.
"I will not accept 'half a loaf' on these issues," he added.
The extender resolution would fund the state through May 31st, giving lawmakers more time to hash out a budget. For the last six years, the legislature has reached budget agreements basically on time, a fact that Cuomo has made a point of pride.
The governor indicated that both the Senate and Assembly leader agreed to pass the extension measure, but the specifics of various funding levels are prompting further debate and could delay its approval. Adding to the agita in Albany is the fact that legislators, recently denied a raise by Cuomo appointees, might not get paid until a new budget is passed.
Reports attributed the massive dysfunction of this year's budget talks to factions including the rogue Democrats of the Senate's Independent Democratic Conference, who work with the Republicans, giving them control of the chamber. IDC leadership has said that raising the age of criminal responsibility is non-negotiable, but regular Democrats accused the group of not being forceful enough in presenting the reform as non-negotiable, calling on them to refuse to take their seats for a vote before a deal was reached on raise-the-age. Ultimately, there was no vote.
On the Republican side, the Daily News reported that Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco of Syracuse was subverting the leadership of Majority Leader John Flanagan by leading a super-conservative faction akin to the House Freedom Caucus in Washington. Among other things, the tabloid writes, De Francisco badmouthed Cuomo on the radio, and on Friday, announced he was heading home for the weekend, prompting others to follow his lead. Within hours, Flanagan called his members back to the Capitol to continue negotiations over the weekend.
"It looks the same to me as when I left," Sen. Simcha Felder, an Orthodox Jew from Brooklyn who left on Friday afternoon to observe Shabbos and returned on Sunday, told Politico. "I proclaim Sabbath for the rest of the month."
Felder is nominally a Democrat, but sides with Senate Republicans. He has his own pet project rolled up into the budget: raising the speed limit on Ocean Parkway, which runs past his street.