Leaders And Cuomo Meet, Casino Siting Off The Table?
Legislative leaders emerged together late this afternoon after an hour-long closed-door meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to discuss the state budget.
Senators Jeff Klein and Dean Skelos, along with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, all agreed that an on-time, even early budget was likely.
“This is a complicated budget, it’s going to take a lot of meetings both on ourn level and on staff level to have an on-time budget,” Silver said.
But the lawmakers also told reporters that provisions that would give the governor’s gaming commission the power to determine where up to three casinos north of New York City are built is now off the table.
“It’s not part of the budget right now,” Silver said.
Skelos said the casino siting proposal was not “time sensitive.”
“That’s another issue. It’s not time sensitive right now in my opinion. I’m not going to speak for the speaker or Jeff, but it’s not time sensitive right now. The budget is time sensitive.”
Cuomo after the meeting disputed that claim.
“There’s nothing in, there’s nothing out until you have a budget,” Cuomo said. “There’s nothing in the budget, there’s nothing out of the budget until you have a budget.”
If the casino siting provision is indeed laid aside for now, it could mean significant progress in getting the budget accomplished in the next several weeks. Cuomo and legislative leaders had disagreed over whether lawmakers have input in where to locate casinos.
Lawmakers last began the process to expand casino gambling in New York to non-Indian casinos by amending the state Constitution.
Meanwhile another controversial measure — increasing the state’s minimum wage — remains under discussion and in the budget. In move designed to make a statement on hiking the wage to nine dollars, the state Assembly plans to vote on a standalone increase on Tuesday.
“If we can do it by way of piece of legislation, that’s fine,” Assemblyman Keith Wright, D-Manhattan, said. “If we can by way of the budget, that’s fine. Just as long as we get it done.”
On the other side of the Capitol, Senate Republicans unveiled a new package of tax cuts aimed at families, including a full restoration of the STAR rebate program. Combined with an effort to cut a surcharge on utility taxes, that’s more than two billion dollars in tax cuts the GOP is calling for.
“What we’re stating here this is what we feel is important for families in New York state,” Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos said at a news conference earlier in the day. “This will be part of our negotiations with the governor and the Assembly.”
The expectation is that in order to allow a wage hike to move forward, Senate Republicans would need some form of a tax cut. Cuomo says there’s room to find a compromise.
“There is always wiggle room,” Cuomo said. “If you are good at wiggling there is wiggle room and I have learned wiggle over the past two years. There is room in the budget for a comprehensive strategy, I believe that.”
The budget is due by April 1, but lawmakers expect to pass the spending plan by March 21 in order to accommodate the Easter and Passover holidays.
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