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State budget ordeal led to bruised feelings in the Legislature

ALBANY — Defiant vows not to become a tool for a politician with possible national ambitions. Promises to pass legislation to take away his state car and helicopter.

These were just some of the slings aimed at Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo during the final tension-filled, sleep-deprived days of the process of adopting a state budget. Thing is, the disparagement didn’t come from Republicans, but from his fellow Democrats.

The party’s internal strife had flared occasionally during Cuomo’s seven years in office. But after an accumulation of bruised feelings, it was moving more in the open.

“We are the Legislature. We are not the platform committee for ‘Cuomo 2020’,” Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) said as the Assembly debated an emergency spending bill to prevent a government shutdown when budget negotiations hit an impasse.

With no full budget in place, legislators faced the possibility of not getting paid, thanks to a law approved by former Gov. George Pataki. Assemb. Michael DenDekker (D-Queens) told NY1 he planned to draft a bill that not only would withhold a governor’s pay but ban his use of the state helicopter, automobiles and the executive mansion.

Unlikely to happen, but the hard feelings behind it were clear.

On the Assembly’s final day at the State Capitol — after a deal had been reached — more legislators let loose when they got a chance to speak on the details of the agreement.

“We have a governor who, unfortunately, empowers the other party on the other side,” said Assemb. Rodneyse Bichotte (D-Brooklyn), referring to the Republican-led Senate.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) then called a quick, closed-door Democratic conference. Tamp down the carping, let’s get this over with, Heastie said, according to numerous legislators.

Cuomo got in his own shots. In a radio interview, he said “legislative leaders” had given up on a proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18. It came off as a slight because Democrats had fought to put the initiative in the budget.

At one point earlier in the week during a closed-door Democratic conference, legislators said Heastie told them Cuomo had just texted him to ask why Democrats were bashing him in the meeting — raising questions about a mole.


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