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Silver says NY state budget deal hours away

ALBANY -- New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says he expects a state budget deal to be announced within hours.

Silver, Senate co-leaders Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) held a two-hour, closed-door negotiating session Thursday morning. Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) joined the other leaders briefly behind closed doors in what is traditionally one of the final actions in closing a budget deal.

The linchpin issues remain a property tax freeze and funding to expand pre-kindergarten statewide, with enough money to greatly expand the classes for 4-year-olds in New York City beginning in the fall.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has proposed using a state subsidy to fund tax credits to homeowners and renters, which would effectively cover their property tax increases of up to 2 percent in each of the next two years. Under Cuomo’s freeze, the governor has insisted on long-term, cost-cutting commitments by local governments and school districts to reduce spending by 1 percent a year for three years to stem growth in some of the nation’s highest property taxes.

But local officials have prompted state legislators to balk at Cuomo’s requirements for further cuts. Schools and local governments argue they made deep cuts and layoffs in recent years during the recession and there’s little left to trim. Cuomo has appeared to warm to the idea of giving schools and local governments some credit for those past cuts.

Cuomo and legislative leaders have said they have a target of $300 million for additional pre-kindergarten aid in New York City to pay for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s high-priority issue. No figure has yet emerged for Long Island and upstate pre-kindergarten expansion, but Skelos has said he is insisting on “balance” in spending statewide.

Skelos, Klein and Cuomo have also sought to provide public charter schools the authority to locate in traditional schools in New York City when space is available. They also were seeking additional funding to help charter schools flourish statewide.

None of the leaders would detail any agreements in the budget of about $142 billion in talks so far.

“I would expect that we will have a deal today,” Silver said of the morning session, promising a “concluding meeting” later in the day. The budget is due by midnight Monday.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” said Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, which shares majority control with Republicans in the Senate.

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