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With 4 days left in session, legislative deal still elusive

ALBANY - With four session days left in the 2015 legislative year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday sought to lower expectations on the likelihood of agreement for several major issues.

That's a common stance for governors and legislative leaders late in the six-month legislative sessions. Horse trading has intensified for what has in recent years come to be called "a big ugly." The result could be a deal on several disparate policies, or nothing.

"We're not there yet on any of this," Cuomo said. "It tends to be talk, talk, talk and then resolve, resolve, resolve all at once because they want to resolve in totality, and they tend not to resolve individual items."

The issues now include extending a tax break mostly for big New York City developers. The program also provides moderate-income housing, which is a top priority of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

But the complex measure known by its provision in law, 421a, is a political lightning rod that has long been criticized by good-government advocates as a favor for big political contributors. Another major issue in the city is a rent-control law that expires Monday  that protects tenants and requires landlords to keep many rents low despite soaring demand.

The Assembly's Democratic majority also seeks greater protections for tenants in each issue. Cuomo also seeks to require developers operating under 421a pay the "prevailing wage," which favors unionized workers.

He said there is also no deal on a top priority for himself and the Senate's Republican majority - an education tax credit that will provide a bigger tax break for donations to private schools.

Assemb. Keith Wright (D-Manhattan) said an extension of a few months of the housing programs with no further protections for tenants and other improvements "is unacceptable to me. We have to do our job as legislators."

He said he's nervous for tenants because the rent regulations law expires Monday. Wright said a plan must be made to protect them from big rent hikes and evictions once the law expires.

"It could be real pandemonium," Cuomo told reporters separately.

Cuomo acknowledged the legislative session has been hampered by the federal corruption investigations that forced the removal of longtime Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) this year.

He said in a different time he would have negotiated the housing issues himself with all sides in a room.

"But with this climate in Albany, it's not conducive to that," Cuomo said.

"We lost at least two months, maybe three months of work," Wright said of the leadership change. "I have to believe the Senate lost a couple of months as well. But we have to do our jobs."

 There was no immediate comment from the Senate's Republican majority. But a spokesman said the conference remains committed to the approval of several priorities led by extending the 2 percent cap on growth in local property taxes that expires next year.

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