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Assembly gives final OK to budget

Assembly members debate budget bills in the Assembly

Assembly members debate budget bills in the Assembly Chamber at the Capitol in Albany. (March 28, 2013) Credit: AP

ALBANY -- The Assembly gave final approval late Thursday night to New York's budget, despite passionate, bipartisan objections to cuts in programs for the developmentally disabled.

In an exceptionally emotional debate, many Republicans and some Democrats protested the $90 million cut in services -- while questioning provisions that aid the National Football League and the film and television industry and authorize a $350 "family tax relief" check to be mailed out to households amid next year's elections.

"This is unconscionable," said Assemb. Michael Montesano (R-Glen Head), who spearheaded an unsuccessful amendment to restore funds for the developmentally disabled. "We cannot pass a budget that provides aid to pet projects and gives tax credits to Hollywood, while leaving our developmentally disabled and their caregivers in the lurch . . ."

The fight over the funds was the centerpiece of what was projected to be a marathon session to complete the budget. The Assembly began debating the plan around 11:30 a.m. Thursday and completed voting close to midnight. The Senate approved the budget Wednesday.

Overall, the 2013-14 spending plan would increase spending by less than 2 percent, to about $136 billion. The total increases to $142.6 billion when federal aid for superstorm Sandy is included.

Some of the budget highlights include a 5 percent increase in school aid, a minimum-wage hike, an extension of the so-called millionaires' tax, and the $350 rebate for families with at least one child.

Lawmakers were trying to beat the April 1 budget deadline for the third straight year, something that hasn't occurred in three decades.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo originally proposed cutting about $120 million, or 6 percent, from programs for the disabled because the federal government reduced New York's funds after saying the state overbilled.

Because the program works with federal matching funds, the overall proposed hit was $240 million.

Senate and Assembly leaders objected to the cuts. But after negotiations, they agreed with Cuomo to restore just $30 million in state funds. The governor said he wants programs to reduce overhead and what he called generous executive salaries to absorb the cuts.

Legislators said the governor was concerned that a full restoration might send the wrong signal about New York's ability to control costs in the wake of the overbilling allegations.

But rank-and-file lawmakers railed about the state providing $54 million to keep the Buffalo Bills from relocating -- the deal includes a luxury box at the stadium for state officials, which the administration says it will use to promote Western New York.

They also criticized tax credits offered to the film industry and a credit apparently aimed at trying to lure "The Tonight Show" to New York from Los Angeles.

State & Region