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Cuomo: Tentative deals on water, tuition; lawmakers say not so fast

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks in

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks in Albany on March 1, 2017. Credit: AP

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday that he has a tentative deal with legislative leaders on clean water projects and “raising the age” for youthful offenders, while warning that federal spending cuts still could blow up state budget planning.

Though legislators said they hadn’t agreed to anything yet, Cuomo, a Democrat, told reporters that lawmakers will devote billions of dollars to clean water projects, including to improve water quality on Long Island by addressing septic systems and to replace crumbling water pipes upstate.

He said they also have a tentative deal on changing the age of criminal responsibility to keep 16- and 17-year-olds out of adult criminal courts. That plan would divert those teens accused of nonviolent crimes from adult courts, except in certain cases. The youths would enter Family Court instead.

Other provisional deals include a plan to expand ride-sharing services, such as Lyft and Uber, to Long Island and upstate, and provide free public college tuition to thousands of New York families. Details about the proposals, however, weren’t available immediately.

“Raise the age? We basically have an agreement. Ride sharing? We basically have agreement. Water? We basically have an agreement. College affordability? We basically have an agreement,” Cuomo said, ticking off his budget priorities ahead of a Friday deadline to pass a state spending plan for fiscal 2017-18.

In contrast, Scott Reif, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said: “I cannot confirm an agreement.”

Similarly, the view offered by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie didn’t match Cuomo’s.

“There are no deals because they are all connected,” said Heastie (D-Bronx). “So there are no deals on anything.”

Such comments are common by legislative leaders who insist on briefing their members in closed-door conferences before confirming or commenting on deals.

“Progress has been made on a lot of issues,” Heastie said after leaving a private meeting with Cuomo and before a meeting with the Democratic majority conference. “But when all of these things are interconnected . . . then there’s no deal.”

The governor said the expansion of state tuition assistance would withstand even deep cuts by the Trump administration and Republican Congress. But he didn’t say whether the tuition agreement would cover only state colleges (as he proposed) or also private universities (as many legislators support).

He said the relatively small state cost — about $160 million within a $162 billion budget — would mean that even deep federal cuts won’t stop that program.

“That is certainly a manageable outlay,” Cuomo said.

The governor stopped short of saying there were final agreements with the Senate and Assembly on the bills, but he said “bills will be on their desk tonight.”


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