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Legislative leaders in Albany hopeful for on-time budget

Governor Cuomo

Governor Cuomo Credit: Getty Images

Could this week’s state budget showdown lead to a state government shutdown?

The next couple of weeks will be crucial as the Senate and Assembly are set to adopt separate budget resolutions by Tuesday and meet jointly to hash out their differences. Then they must work out an agreement with Gov. Andrew Cuomo by April 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

A spokesman for GOP Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said Monday he’s “optimistic” there’ll be an on-time budget.

Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver also said lawmakers can meet the deadline.

Still, Silver said, he’s not backing down on “critical restorations to human services,” such as funding for senior centers and community colleges. Such disagreements could leave the budget stakeholders miles apart, observers say.

For instance, Silver wants to extend a tax on wealthy New Yorkers that’s set to expire at the end of the year. Cuomo, siding with the Senate GOP, wants it to end because he considers it a tax hike.

Assembly Democrats also don’t like the $1.5 billion in education cuts under Cuomo’s budget proposal.

A Cuomo spokesman said the governor is willing to use budget extenders – temporary spending measures that keep the government operating – if his budget doesn’t pass. In those extenders, he can impose the budget cuts he wants. If the Legislature doesn’t like them, they could move to shut down state government.

“It may be that Cuomo’s able to continue rattling that saber and have them make changes in his favor rather than the Legislature having to bear a government shutdown,” said Elizabeth Lynam, deputy research director at the nonpartisan Citizens Budget Commission.

Former Gov. David Paterson used budget extenders last year in his fight with lawmakers, and didn’t get his budget approved until August.

Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. (D-Bronx) said he’s willing to see state government shut down if that means senior centers – including 105 in New York City – don’t permanently close.

“My vote is a no vote (for Cuomo’s budget),” said Diaz, a Senate Finance Committee member.

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