New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said he expects a deal on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $132.5 billion budget proposal as soon as today.
Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, are still working with Cuomo’s office on details, including how they’ll allocate a 4 percent increase, or about $800 million, in education funding to local school districts. Cuomo proposed doling out $250 million through competitive grants, while Silver and Skelos have said they want more money given out based on need. Cuomo has said he’s flexible.
“I expect us to have a completed budget by tonight,” Silver said in an interview in Albany, the capital. “We are getting there,” on the education funding, he said. Voting on the budget would start March 28 and finish the next day if a deal can be reached today, Silver said.
New York’s 2013 fiscal year begins April 1, and Cuomo, Silver and Skelos have said they want to have the budget approved on-time, if not early. If the spending plan is approved on-time, it would be the first time since 2005 and 2006 that consecutive final budgets were passed by March 31, Morris Peters, a budget division spokesman, said in an e-mail. Before then, the last time consecutive budgets were passed on-time was in each year from 1982 to 1984, Peters said.
The lawmakers and Cuomo, a 54-year-old Democrat, are also stuck in negotiations on plans for creating a health-care exchange, Silver said. Cuomo and Silver want New York to set up its own one-stop shop for health insurance before the federal government steps in and establishes one for the state. The exchange is part of President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul, and Republicans who control the Senate have been reluctant to support it.
Some of the budget’s most contentious issues were resolved March 15, when the Legislature approved a Cuomo-backed pension overhaul and a teacher-evaluation system, items that were part of the spending plan Cuomo sent to lawmakers in January.
An agreement reached last night will provide $13.1 billion to fund the last three years of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s five-year capital budget, allowing projects such as the Second Avenue subway to proceed as planned, according to a person with direct knowledge of the deal, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal hasn’t been formally announced. The state had originally funded only $9.1 billion for the first two years. The agreement raises the MTA’s debt cap by $7 billion.
“With this funding, the MTA will continue to enhance our riders’ experience by investing in the future of our transportation network,” MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said in a statement e-mailed today.
Another deal included in one of three budget bills printed last night would create a seven-member gaming commission to operate the lottery, and oversee Indian casinos, horse racing and the video lottery terminals in the so-called racinos at race tracks. The commission, which will include five members appointed by the governor, one from the Senate majority leader and one from the Assembly speaker, will replace and combine the existing Racing and Wagering Board and Lottery Division.
This month, the Legislature voted in favor of a constitutional amendment that would allow for as many as seven Las Vegas-style casinos in the third-most-populous state. The amendment will be sent to voters if lawmakers approve it a second time next year. The bill creating the commission doesn’t discuss how it might relate to those non-Indian casinos.
Infrastructure Task Force
A separate measure included in the printed bills would create a 15-member infrastructure task force that would determine the state’s building needs across several agencies and develop a plan for meeting them. The task force, part of Cuomo’s original proposal, would also recommend financing options, including using state-backed debt, federal funding and “other finance vehicles.” Cuomo is seeking legislation separate from the budget process that would allow private investment in public infrastructure projects.
“We’ve never looked holistically about what our infrastructure priorities are,” Karen Rae, deputy secretary of transportation, said in an interview in New York before the deal on the task force was reached. “This is a much more proactive intervention on how we prioritize across many agencies.”