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Editorial: Albany budget is a stew again

Senate Co-Leaders Democrat Jeffery D. Klein and Republican

Senate Co-Leaders Democrat Jeffery D. Klein and Republican Leader Dean G. Skelos, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (not pictured) announce a tentative deal on the New York State 2013-14 budget in Albany. (March 20, 2013) (Credit: The New York Times)

When Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed his $143-billion budget in January, he said it was “simple and straightforward.”

In his quest to deliver a third-consecutive on-time state budget, Cuomo said putting a plan together ought to be relatively simple exercise — one that wasn’t political and one where the numbers added up.

Unfortunately, this year’s budget turned into more than numbers.
While taxes, or revenues, generate legitimate budget battles, they shouldn’t be used as bargaining chips for other social policies that belong outside of these negotiations. In recent days, negotiations between legislative leaders and the governor in Albany became larded with iterations of a minimum-wage hike, hundreds of millions in tax breaks for businesses, extending the so-called millionaires’ tax on high-earners and issuing gimmicky $350 rebate checks for middle-class families earning between $40,000 and $300,000.

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In addition, along came debate about tweaking the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, the recently passed gun law, to allow for magazine clips of 10 rather than seven bullets. There was also talk of decriminalizing small amounts marijuana to help deal with New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy, which many believe unfairly targets young minorities. At some point, even banning “bath salts” and synthetic marijuana got thrown into the mix.

Some of these conversations were beyond budget talk. They were legitimate policy questions deserving more airing. And there is plenty of time for that between now and June.

Wednesday night, legislators and the governor struck a partial deal, a convoluted two-year framework that included a phased-in minimum wage, modest middle-class tax cut and extension of the income tax on high-earners. But as they sort out some unresolved issues before April 1, you can be sure the final product won’t be simple or straightforward. 

Tags: New York State budget , Albany , Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo , Dean Skelos , Sheldon Silver , Jeffrey Klein , marijuana , taxes , millionaires

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