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Gov. Cuomo plans to hold private budget briefings with lawmakers

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo delivers his Long Island

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo delivers his Long Island regional State of the State speech at Farmingdale State College in Farmingdale on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will present his $150 billion budget proposal privately to legislators behind closed doors Tuesday in the governor’s mansion, legislators said on Monday.

Cuomo has not announced any plan to make a traditional public presentation of how he will spend taxpayers’ money. If he holds no public speech, Cuomo will again break with tradition as he did last week in not delivering a State of the State speech to the Legislature, with whom he has been feuding.

Cuomo plans to meet privately with Republicans and the seven-member Independent Democratic Conference in the majority coalition for a lunch presentation in the governor’s mansion on Tuesday, legislators said. Cuomo plans another private meeting Tuesday evening with the Assembly’s Democratic majority, the majority said.

“The governor has invited members to the mansion for lunch and is expected to brief them on the budget,” said Scott Reif, Senate majority spokesman, on Monday.

Neither Reif nor his counterparts in the other legislative conferences would comment on Cuomo’s unexpected plan for his 2017-18 budget.

Cuomo or his staff also planned to present his proposal to the Senate’s Democratic minority, conference spokesman Mike Murphy said Monday. There was no immediate comment from the Assembly’s Republican minority.

Cuomo wouldn’t comment on his plans Monday or confirm he is meeting with legislators in private.

“We think it’s important that the governor present to the public how he intends to spend their money,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

“It’s another indication of how poisonous the relationship is between the governor and the Legislature,” Horner said Monday. “It could be cause for concern in a meaningful way.”

He noted that former Gov. George Pataki’s fights with the Legislature resulted in late budgets and the dysfunction of state government. But Horner also said important elements of any state budget are usually uncovered not in a governor’s speech, but in legislative hearings that dissect the spending plan. Those will begin within days.

The latest tension stems from Cuomo’s derailing of the first pay raise for legislators since 1999, after Cuomo and Legislature created a panel that was poised in December to raise pay to about $99,500, from the current $79,500. Legislative leaders skipped Cuomo’s State of the State addresses.

“He’s presenting a very ambitious agenda with a lot of positions that are going to require a lot of analysis and certainly, in the end, compromise,” said Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) in an interview Monday. “I don’t believe that my colleagues in the Senate and in the Assembly, even though they might be upset by not getting a pay raise, are going to stand in the way of good governance . . . we are elected to govern.”

Cuomo has proposed some major programs to the Legislature in his State of the State addresses last week. Among them is what he promises to be a record high amount of public school aid as well as free public college tuition for families making under $125,000 a year. But he has yet to provide details and a way to paying for these and other proposals.

The state constitution requires the governor to “submit to the legislature a budget containing a complete plan of expenditures . . . with an explanation of the basis of such estimates and recommendations as to proposed legislation, if any.”

The constitution doesn’t require a public presentation, which has been routine since the 1990s.

Cuomo has also held annual budget presentations in public after promising as a candidate in 2010 to lead the most transparent executive branch in history.

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