WXXI AM News

Capitol Bureau

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders plan to meet all week, but no agreements are finalized yet on a state budget that’s due Friday.

Cuomo and the state Legislature have not yet nailed down a budget deal that could include an extension of a tax on millionaires, more tuition aid for middle-class college students and more spending on clean water infrastructure. They continue to meet — together, and in their separate party conferences — behind closed doors.

Karen DeWitt

Several proposals in Washington, including the changes to the Affordable Health Care Act, could mean multi-billion-dollar budget gaps for New York state. With the budget due in one week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders think that at the very least, they may have to come back later in the year to revise the spending plan.

With just over a week to go before the budget deadline, Cuomo for the first time hinted that the spending plan might not be completed on time because of the uncertainty about future federal funding.

Matt Ryan New York Now

Another sitting state legislator, Sen. Rob Ortt, has been indicted on corruption charges, along with George Maziarz, who held the western New York Senate seat before him. The indictments come as ethics reform proposals in the state budget are faltering.

Ortt is accused of creating a no-show job for his wife to pad his own salary while he was mayor of North Tonawanda in Niagara County.

Matt Ryan New York Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he’s considering suing the federal government over an amendment to the health care act proposed by two New York congressmen, saying it may violate state sovereignty.

Congressmen Chris Collins and John Faso support a plan that would require New York state to take over the counties’ share of Medicaid costs, outside of New York City, worth about $2.3 billion. The plan does not offer funds to pay for the shift, and Cuomo, in a third day of attacks against the plan, said anyone who believes it’s a savings for taxpayers “is being taken for a ride.”

The leader of the state Senate said an indicted Republican senator is staying on for now to help work on the upcoming state budget vote and other issues. 

Senate Republican Majority Leader John Flanagan said he’s sticking by Rob Ortt, a senator from western New York, for now, saying he can’t speculate on charges that Ortt, while mayor of North Tonawanda, arranged for a no-show job for his wife in order to pad his own salary.

“I believe in our system of jurisprudence, and I have great faith in Rob Ortt,” Flanagan said. “He’s a good friend and a good colleague.”

Karen DeWitt

Proponents of raising taxes on New York’s wealthiest say they have a new impetus to increase the state’s revenue — the continued bad news from Washington about deep federal cuts to health care and other areas.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has called an amendment to the federal repeal of the Affordable Care Act that would force the state to pick up county Medicaid costs “unconscionable.”

A provision to shift Medicaid health care costs in New York from counties to the state as part of the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act by Congress is meeting with a cool reception from state leaders.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls it a “targeted war on New York,” while the leader of the Republicans in the Legislature is voicing skepticism. 

The next two weeks at the state Capitol are going to be very busy as lawmakers face the deadline for a new budget. Several issues remain unresolved.

Religious leaders lobbied for inclusion of the millionaire’s tax in the state budget. Governor Cuomo has asked for an extension of a temporary income tax surcharge on New Yorkers making more than a million dollars. Republicans, who lead the Senate with the help of some breakaway Democrats, want to end the tax. Democrats who control the Assembly want to add even more, higher tax brackets for the state’s top income earners.

Tensions between opposing groups of Democrats in the Senate reached a flash point this week over whose faction would be allowed to present their budget priorities for a floor debate in an exchange that included some racially charged name-calling.

A growing group of eight breakaway Democrats, who rule the Senate in an informal coalition with 31 Republicans, have left regular Democrats smarting for some time now.

Karen DeWitt

The smallest faction in the divided state Senate, the Independent Democratic Conference, has been permitted by the ruling party Republicans to issue its own alternate spending plan. That has angered the rest of the Democrats.

Currently, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate have the same amount of members – 31 each – but the Democrats are divided, with eight members in a breakaway group that forms an informal ruling coalition with the GOP.

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