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Gov, lawmakers fail to agree on state budget deal

Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeffrey Klein (D-Yonkers),

Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeffrey Klein (D-Yonkers), left, and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport), talk on Thursday, March 30, 2017, during budget negotiations at the state Capitol in Albany. Photo Credit: AP / Hans Pennink

ALBANY

After a day of closed-door negotiations, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the legislature again failed to agree on a late state budget deal Saturday.

The failure came even after key Assembly and Senate members announced earlier in the day that they had reached a tentative agreement on the primary issue that has continued to hold up approval of a state budget: how New York treats 16- and 17-year-olds charged with a crime.

Still, after six hours of closed-door meetings, the Senate’s Republican majority ended its day without approving the bipartisan compromise or any of the $162 billion budget, which was due Friday.

“Nothing has changed,” said Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif. He said negotiations will continue Sunday. Neither the Senate nor the Assembly ever entered session Saturday to take any votes.

After nearly seven hours of private meetings, the Assembly’s Democratic majority never took up the youth justice issue, said Assemb. Helene Weinstein (D-Brooklyn), who was part of a bipartisan contingent that worked out the tentative compromise with Cuomo.

Most lawmakers said they expect passage of any budget deal to fall into Sunday or Monday, given the length of time the Assembly’s Republican minority caucus and the Senate’s minority Democratic caucus needs to review and debate each of the massive budget bills.

If there is no agreement, an emergency measure may have to be passed Monday to extend the 2016-17 budget to meet the state’s payroll on Wednesday.

Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group criticized the timing and the secrecy surrounding the budget process.

“It’s bad enough doing a budget in secret, but then to have it late is rubbing salt in the wound,” Horner said in an interview.

The proposal to move some 16- and 17-year-olds accused of crimes out of criminal court and instead treat them in a new youth court or Family Court — the biggest issue blamed for missing Friday’s budget deadline — may gain final agreement as early as Sunday.

Supporters — primarily Democrats — have said they want to give youths a second chance. Senate Republicans said they feared the measure could be soft on crime and twisted by violent gangs to use more youths in crimes.

“We have a framework of an agreement,” Assemb. Joseph Lentol (D-Brooklyn) said, declining to provide further details.

“We are all on the same page,” said Sen. Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx), leader of the Independent Democratic Conference that has a leadership coalition with the Senate’s Republican majority.

But several times this week state lawmakers and Cuomo had said they had a tentative deal or were extremely close to a final agreement, only to see things fall apart.

A dozen protesters from the activist group Vocal NY chanted outside the Senate Republican chamber Saturday demanding approval of the raise-the-age measure, as well as other goals such a millionaires tax and increased school aid.

Other disputed issues among legislators include various education proposals and the possible renewal of a tax break for developers, called the “421-a” program.

Saturday marked the third time in a row that the annual state budget has been late.

Cuomo’s first four budgets were on time, meeting one of his top campaign goals in 2010 after decades of late budgets under previous governors. He has said passing a budget on time is a sign that the government is functional.

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