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Budget Talks Puts Strain On Upstate-Downstate Divide

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As the state budget deadline inches closer, lawmakers are drawing their lines in the sand. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.

State lawmakers insist they will pass their budget on time this year, but there are still a few areas of contention standing in the way. Among the issues magnifying the upstate-downstate divide: school aid distribution and prison closures.

"The number of prisons upstate are the main economic engine for those communities," said State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is creating a task force to determine which prisons will close, but he wants lawmakers to approve the savings before they even know which facilities they will be shutting down.

"I wouldn’t want to go in and vote for something that decimates my district," said State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous.

Republicans, meantime, are pushing the governor for a heads up.

"That’s what we’re working on now, going through those different communities getting an understanding of the impact within those communities," Skelos said.

Brooklyn Senator Martin Golden also fears a provision pointing to marketability and value of a prison as a reason for closure will make city facilities a target.

"If you look at Staten Island or one of the prisons that are in the City of New York you’ll get obviously a lot more money for that piece of parcel than you would on a parcel upstate," Golden said.

Prison closures are less of a concern for the lower house. The Assembly is still negotiating with Republicans to get rent regulations into the budget.

"That would be to us what the prisons are to upstate in terms of their community reaction," said State Assemblyman and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Denny Farrell.

With the budget due in less than two weeks tenants advocates are demanding the issue be addressed now.

"There are 2.5 million poor New Yorkers, working people, immigrant families, senior citizens who depend on rent regulation and who need the rent laws to be strengthened or they're going to be pushed out of their homes and their communities," said Maggie Russell-Ciardi of Tenants & Neighbors.

Republicans maintain they don’t want rent control to be in the budget, but the governor’s office says it’s still on the table.

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