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Albany Senators Approve State Budget In Overnight Session

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The state Senate approved early Wednesday a $135 billion spending plan that includes a middle-class tax rebate and a hike in the minimum wage.

The final bill was passed around 4:30 a.m.

The budget approved by the senate includes a state minimum wage will eventually hit $9 an hour by January 2016, a middle-class tax rebate for families and increased aid for CUNY and SUNY schools.

The city public school system gets a 4.6-percent increase in aid -- worth about $363 million -- but the budget does not restore $240 million the city Department of Education lost this school year because it has no teacher evaluation system in place.

"For New York City, I don't believe the $240 million that we were all hoping to figure out a way to get back in is in. I think that the language is there, such that there won't be a continuing hit on the city school children," said State Senator Liz Krueger of Manhattan.

The budget is due on Monday, but some Democratic senators were not happy about having to vote in the middle of the night.

"We should be doing the work during the day so that people can see what we're doing," said State Senator Terry Gipson of Rhinebeck. "Right now it is about 2:30 in the morning. The people have been working hard all day, they're fast asleep, they're unable to see what's going on here and I think that's wrong."

Some claimed they were not able to see the budget language before voting began.

"All the things that people should know about -- and I think would care about -- even if they try to sort this through afterwards, they're never going to be able to figure out how, why, where things got into the state budget," said State Senator Liz Krueger of Manhattan.

The bills sat on the senators' desks a customary three days before voting could begin. No emergency declaration, called a "message of necessity," was needed to speed along that process.

"Many times in the past it happened, there were messages of necessity and there wasn't an opportunity for people to look at the budgets," said state Senate Republican conference leader Dean Skelos. "Part of this is really trying to get our budget, or at least our part, done in the midst of the holidays."

In a radio interview on WCNY-AM, Governor Andrew Cuomo praised the budget, invoking an apparent reference to the reality TV show "Duck Dynasty" to make the point.

"Hap, hap, happy. There is a new show called 'Duck Dynasty.' Hap, hap, happy, I'm hap, hap, happy," Cuomo said.

Voting int the state Assembly is expected to begin Thursday. If the budget gets passed by Monday, it will be the first time in nearly 30 years that Albany has passed three consecutive budgets.

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