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Cuomo: Legislature power struggle stalls budget

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Wednesday he wants the unilateral to power to cut the state budget in the event of federal aid cuts before he will agree to the 2017-18 state budget that was due a week ago. He also refused to provide the legislature with the final budget bills as legislators said they were about to pass the spending plan.

Skeptical legislators are balking.

“Legislative bodies are not quick to cut funding,” Cuomo said. “It’s very important to me that we not put our financial feet into cement. . . . I want financial flexibility. These annual budgets, you are locked in.”

In January, Cuomo had inserted the proposal to broaden. The Senate and Assembly rejected the proposal weeks ago as a violation of the checks and balances of the state constitution.

But Cuomo returned the issue to closed-door negotiations in as he warned about threatened cuts by President Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress. He also cited three policies on which he said he needed “closure” to agree to a state budget. Cuomo said the lack of closure created a stalemate for the tentative agreement he had declared on March 28

On Tuesday night, legislators said Cuomo stopped sending budget bills for the Senate and Assembly. That made it impossible for the legislature to pass a budget even though both chambers said they expected to pass the spending plan Thursday or Friday.

One senator said the governor’s push for more power shouldn’t be approved — much less in the budget.

“We made it clear from day one that there is a legislature and there is a governor, and the legislature has a role to play in budget,” said Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse.)

“If we have to come back because the revenues aren’t what we expected — that’s been done many, many times before in the history of the state,” DeFrancisco said. “So the point is, it’s wrong in my mind for the governor to seek powers to be unilaterally in charge of what happens. . . . It doesn’t show any checks and balances.

“But he is definitely pushing hard again to have that almost exclusive authority,” DeFrancisco said. “His main objective is to be the person that makes the decision with as little resistance as he possibly can.”

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) was more diplomatic.

“I want a full budget,” Flanagan said. “We had a lot of three-way agreements . . . but as you know these things come together as a package and if it’s not completely done, then it is not going to be done. . . . The governor is right. There was not closure.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) said some of the issues Cuomo said derailed a budget deal could have been settled “in minutes.”

“What is happening right now is ridiculous,” said Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart Cousins (D-Yonkers). “Dysfunction and chaos has descended on Albany. This situation has spiraled out of control and New Yorkers deserve better.”

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