Saturday, December 20, 2014

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Clock is Ticking as State Budget Deadline Nears

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State budget negotiations have hit a snag in Albany, as several issues that were believed to be agreed upon are now back in play as the budget talks continue. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

The deal was close, but then it fell apart. Issues that were thought to be locked down suddenly were not.

"When you come to this point in the negotiations and you're working towards a final budget, there's always little things and each of the important pieces, like property tax relief, renter relief, charter schools, universal pre-K," said Jeff Klein, the leader of the state Senate's Independent Democratic Conference.

In a sign of just how sensitive negotiations are, at one point Friday morning, there was a rumor that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had left town. Thinking that the governor's office was spreading that rumor, Silver came looking for NY1 to prove he hadn't left.

Silver: Mr. Fink is one who heard the rumor that I'm not here. That was the whole purpose of this, OK? Have you heard the rumor?
Fink: I have heard that rumor as well.
Silver: Do you know where it came from? Because they want to know where it came from.

Sources say that some of the outstanding issues include protections for charter schools, school aid for suburban and upstate school districts, and campaign finance reform. All of it is being discussed by four men in a room behind closed doors.

"It's certainly not good that these major decisions are being decided without the public input or without the public even being able to get updated on what's happening," said Bill Mahoney of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Earlier this month, Governor Andrew Cuomo defended the budget process that some consider less than transparent.

"Just because something is done behind closed doors doesn't mean the process isn't transparent," he said.

The actual budget deadline is Tuesday, so lawmakers still have a few days to play with here. However, all the bills need to be printed by Monday in order for them to vote.

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