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ALBANY — Rubbing the sleepiness out of a face that was scratchy with a much-later-than 5 o’clock shadow after a marathon budget session, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Friday said he couldn’t be happier.
“I think this is the one of the finest — if not the finest — budget I’ve been involved in,” said Heastie, whose been part of Albany for 16 years. He ticked off the Assembly’s progressive priorities in the state budget still being voted on Friday afternoon: a $15 minimum wage, paid family leave, stopping a sixth straight tuition increase for the State University of New York, more aid for the Second Avenue subway, and the blocking of a $250 million cost-shift of Medicaid to New York City for which Heastie made a late, unshakable stand.
For months, Heastie, in his first full budget session as speaker, has carried the weight of the needs of New York City as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio feuded.
But on Friday, Heastie tried to downplay that rift, even as he acknowledged the wins he and his Democratic conference scored for de Blasio, who met resistance when he tried to do it himself in Albany.
“We have a great relationship with the mayor,” Heastie said. “But he is in some ways irrelevant. . . . I think it was him having confidence the Democrats from the city would stand up for their constituents. . . . He had faith.”
Heastie, known for speaking low and often not at all in the often boisterous political world of Albany, appeared to draw a line days ago. He insisted that Cuomo’s proposal to make the city pay another $250 million in Medicaid costs now paid by the state be dropped from the state budget.
Cuomo eventually agreed, as the state budget deadline drew near and Heastie refused to relent. Instead, Cuomo will seek cost savings from all counties, not just New York City, working with local officials.
“Everyone is confident it will be done in a collaborative way . . . not a harsh or punitive way,” Heastie said.
The mayor said the state budget made Friday “a great, great day.”
“The state Assembly did an amazing job standing up for New York City and stopping those cuts dead in their tracks,” de Blasio told NY1. “So, that was a great victory.”