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State budget will be passed on time, even if it’s late, Silver says

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) walks across the

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) walks across the Assembly Chamber Monday, March 31, 2014, as members debate budget bills. Credit: AP / Mike Groll

ALBANY -- Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Monday that a state budget will be adopted on time, even if it’s late.

Silver was making the case for passing some budget bills Tuesday, beyond Monday’s midnight deadline in law for the state budget to be passed.

“We’ll be here tomorrow anyway, and we will have done a timely budget,” Silver said in an interview on the Assembly floor as budget debate began. “All the appropriations are done, or will be done today, and we will have a completed budget today .?.?. on time.”

“That’s Albany-speak for close, but no cigar,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had no immediate comment Monday.

Cuomo and legislative leaders failed to agree on and begin printing about half the budget bills by the Friday midnight deadline to comply with the state constitution. A snag concerning tax breaks and education issues delayed talks Friday.

“All of the appropriation bills were printed on time,” Cuomo said Saturday. He noted the health bill and another “language bill” concerning policy changes that comprise about half the budget weren’t. “There were some bills that were non-appropriation bills that were apparently shortly thereafter, but all of the appropriation bills were printed on time.”

The leaders promised the 2014-15 spending plan this election year would be the fourth on-time budget in a row. Cuomo and lawmakers have made passing budgets on time a major campaign issue as proof of their competence, after late budgets dominated Albany for most of the last 20 years.

Among the late budgets was the 2007 state budget negotiated by Gov. Eliot Spitzer. It wasn’t adopted until the early hours of April 1.

The constitution requires three days of public review of bills before a vote. But Cuomo could issue a “message of necessity” Monday, an order reserved for emergencies. That order allows a governor and Legislature to suspend the public review period for unspecified emergencies.

 “If they get messages then they will be on time,” Horner said Monday. “Or they can freeze the clocks,” he said, referring a legislative move over a decade ago in which leaders pushed back the hands of the clock to meet a deadline. “Albany is the one place on the planet where time can stand still.”

But messages of necessity have been a major target for good-government groups. They have said lawmakers and the public need the time to review the political deals entwined in a state budget through closed-door negotiations.

In May 2013, Cuomo made the case that he wanted to avoid messages of necessity, especially for complex budget bills: “We’re proceeding in an orderly way,” Cuomo said during that budget session. “I don’t anticipate at this time any reason why we’re going to have a mad scramble at the end.”

Cuomo has used messages of necessity less frequently than his immediate predecessors, but he has used them often with his biggest goals including his first budget, the legalization of gay marriage, his gun control measure, and his failed effort to strengthen late-term abortion laws. Opponents of his gun control measure a year ago sued, saying he improperly used the emergency order to stem opposition. That case was defeated in court.

“Three days of debate, everyone has an opinion, it’s entirely transparent, we never reach resolution,” Cuomo said a year ago in defending the use of messages of necessity. “I get 100 percent for transparency. I get zero for results.”

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