ALBANY — The leader of the minority party of Democrats on Monday said Albany’s budget process so far is even worse than the notorious three-men-in-a-room practices that have been widely criticized for decades.

Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) said the closed-door meetings between Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flangan (R-East Northport) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) have been replaced with “covert meetings and phone calls shield from the press and the public.”

She made the charge on the Senate floor.

She said that practice as well as a weak ethics package being proposed just four months after former Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and former Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) were convicted on corruption charges shows Albany is missing its “Watergate moment.”

“It’s as dark as it’s ever been,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. Asked why New Yorkers should care, he said: “It’s their money.”

Flanagan urged patience with the budget process, which is in its early stages. He argued legislative budget hearings, in which lawmakers publicly question Cuomo administrators and interest groups, logged in more house this year than in past years. Flanagan said there will be some public and some private negotiations, but that public, bipartisan committees will meet on aspects of the budget beginning Tuesday.

Stewart-Cousins’ complaint, however, was about the final negotiations on the biggest issues that are usually done deep in the executive chamber.

The budget is due by April 1.

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