Skelos walks out of state budget talks

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Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) on

Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Albany. Skelos left closed-door budget negotiations Friday, March 21, 2014, saying, “As far as I’m concerned we have a problem right now.” Photo Credit: AP / Mike Groll

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ALBANY -- Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) abruptly left closed-door budget negotiations Friday, blaming Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for creating a snag in talks.

Silver (D-Manhattan) said he wasn't sure what Skelos was talking about. Silver countered that the Senate's budget priorities read like "fiction."

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Such blowups, however, are common in the private sessions between New York governors and legislative leaders as they seek to negotiate a state budget by the April 1 deadline.

"I've indicated that I am looking to have balance throughout the state when it comes to tax cuts, when it comes to education aid," Skelos said. "It seems that certain members in the room, that represent another branch, their only concern is New York City and Mayor de Blasio.

"As far as I'm concerned we have a problem right now," Skelos said as the April 1 deadline for passing a budget drew near. "Hopefully, we can work it out, but we'll see."

"You see, that's the problem," Silver said minutes after Skelos left. "I'm not sure what the Senate proposed. It's hard to read that resolution and read the fiction. I don't read fiction. I read biographies, I read history, I never read fiction."

Silver referred to the Senate budget resolution, which is supposed to reflect the chamber's position on all budget matters. But Senate Republicans and the Independent Democratic Conference with which they share majority control had a tough time agreeing to a resolution and some of its provisions are broad and unclear.

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Silver denied he was focused on New York City and Mayor Bill de Blasio's prekindergarten priority.

"I have a statewide conference. I have members that represent every city across this city, every rural area," Silver said. "We have, fortunately, a large representative conference. I am focused on education of the students of this state, and if the senator has a problem with that, it is unfortunate."

Skelos, Silver and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, however, have promised an on-time budget.

Skelos said the problem involved proposed property tax cuts, school aid, and an infusion of aid to expand prekindergarten.

De Blasio, New York City's Democratic mayor, has sought an increase in a city income tax on the wealthy to create a dependable funding stream to expand prekindergarten in the city.

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Cuomo followed that with a plan to provide state funding to expand prekindergarten statewide.

Cuomo had no immediate comment Friday.

Despite the drama Friday morning, staff of the Assembly, Senate and for the governor continued to meet to craft a budget. They are expected to meet through the weekend and another leaders' meeting is expected Monday.

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