State Legislature seen convening early
ALBANY -- Momentum is gaining for lawmakers to return to the Capitol next week for a special session to address taxes, jobs and the economy.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) told his Democratic colleagues to come to Albany on Tuesday for a party conference and be prepared to be in session Wednesday. The Senate has yet to do the same and the Cuomo administration, while pushing for a special session, said that nothing is definite yet.
"It's still speculation right now," said Assemb. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn), who was in Albany on Friday. "But it's speculation that does seem like it could mature into an actual session."
One Republican senator, who requested anonymity, said it was "75 percent" likely that the two houses would return to consider a package of bills. However, Scott Reif, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), said: "We have not scheduled a session for next week."
Normally, the legislature wouldn't return to the Capitol until January, when Cuomo delivers the annual State of the State message and, later that month, proposes a budget.
Recently, Cuomo announced the state had a $350 million budget deficit this fiscal year, blaming it on the slack economy. He has had ongoing talks with Senate and Assembly leaders and said he would call a special session if the leaders can agree on an economic agenda. His office maintained that nothing has come to fruition yet.
"I don't want to call legislature back unless we have an agreed-to agenda and I believe there is at least a likelihood of success," Cuomo said this week.
Bringing lawmakers back early could serve to jump-start the governor's agenda -- if the Democrat-led Assembly and Republican-controlled Senate find agreement and pass economy-driven legislation.
Word of the possible call back began at a gathering Friday of the New York State Association of Counties, where local leaders, including outgoing Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, discussed fiscal challenges.
"Within a week they'll be calling the legislature back here to Albany to deal with some issues," Greg Edwards, NYSAC president and Chautauqua county executive, said. "What we've been told is that there's to be discussion about more taxes, increasing the taxes at the state level."
Edwards' reference to "increasing taxes" alludes to reports that Cuomo might propose restructuring the income-tax code to raise rates for high earners and lower some for middle- and lower-income households.