State lawmakers are hurrying toward getting a budget agreement in place, with a stepped up schedule of conference committees and meetings with Governor Cuomo. But Cuomo is throwing cold water on striking a deal by the weekend.
Legislative leaders, after three separate meetings with the governor said they were “hopeful” that a final agreement could come before the weekend.
But Governor Cuomo late in the day said talks are “inconclusive”, and he expects negotiations to continue over Saturday and Sunday.
“You’re on the 3 yard line,” said Cuomo. “But what does that mean? I’ve seen a lot of teams on the 3 yard line that never get over the goal line. So we’ll see how it goes. There are a lot of open issues”.
The governor says many complicated issues related to the budget are still on the table, including raising the minimum wage. Even though legislative leaders have said they do not want to include gambling expansion in the budget, Cuomo says the proposal is still being considered.
The Governor and Legislative leaders agreed to divide up $550 million more dollars in joint budget conference committees, with the largest chunk, $290 million dollars, going to extra aid for education.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says that doesn’t mean the legislature is spending half billion dollars more than Governor Cuomo wants. Silver, along with Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos, say they have instead moved money around, but could not name the total increase in state spending.
“I can’t tell you right now,” Silver said.
“We’re staying within the 2% (spending) cap,” Senator Skelos added.
Lawmakers have not yet convinced Governor Cuomo to agree to restore around $250 million dollars cut to New York City schools after they failed to meet the governor’s deadline for a teacher evaluation plan.
Meanwhile, 50 or so demonstrators advocating for the minimum wage directed their ire toward Governor Cuomo and Senate Co Leader Jeff Klein, who they say aren’t doing enough to convince Republicans in the Senate to go along with a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour.
They chanted “Hey Klein, at least 9”, and “Hey Cuomo, the wage is too low”, outside the Governor’s and Senator Klein’s offices.
Senator Klein, a Democrat who led a break away faction of Democrats to join a coalition government with the Senate Republicans, has been attempting to compromise with the Senate GOP. Republicans have called a minimum wage increase a “job killer”.
Klein, a staunch supporter of raising the minimum wage, ultimately agreed to a plan to increase it gradually over a three year period instead, without naming any specific amount.
Senator Klein was asked about the protesters following a budget conference committee meeting.
“I was just at my office, and I didn’t see any protesters,” Klein said.
Governor Cuomo denies that the Senate’s coalition government is making budget talks any more difficult than usual, though he admits it was simpler when only one person led the Senate, and he says it’s meant more social events, more “cookies and coffee”.
“There’s a fine line between pleasure and pain,” Cuomo joked.