NY budget deal near after latest negotiations

Posted at: 03/19/2013 11:29 AM
Updated at: 03/19/2013 5:25 PM
By: Bill Lambdin

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Legislators are starting to sign off on some aspects of the state budget as a final agreement draws near that will increase the minimum wage and provide some tax breaks, most of them effective a year from now.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says most of the $700 million in business and middle class tax cuts announced this week by Senate Republicans won't be effective until 2014, an election year.
The minimum wage proposal which legislators say appears final would also be phased in. State officials say the budget talks include a minimum wage increase to $8 an hour in January, $8.75 a year later and $9 a year after that. The minimum wage is now $7.25.
Silver is still trying to restore $250 million to New York City schools.
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The state legislature is running up against a self-imposed deadline to get a budget deal done.

The state constitution requires a three day waiting period before a vote on bills, including the budget, unless the governor sends a message of necessity.

They did that with the gun control measure and are being sued, so they don't want to further compound that controversy.

Legislators are planning to take next week off for religious observances and they don't want to return to the bad old days of missing the April 1 deadline.

So given all those factors, leaders really need to make a deal Tuesday on their spending plan of about 136 billion taxpayer dollars.

But after meeting in private for about an hour this morning, three of the four men in a room emerged to separately say they're close, but still not there.

"We had a lot of discussions about increasing the minimum wage, something that is very important to me," said Senator Jeff Klein, the leader of Independent Democrats (who share power in the Senate). "Also, we're talking about business tax credits, including something that I proposed, veterans tax credits to reduce the tremendous unemployment among vets in New York who are returning after serving their country. Business tax credits that specifically target small business."

"We're working on narrowing more issues and I'm optimistic, as you all know, I'm always optimistic that we will have a final agreement at some point today," said Senator Dean Skelos, the Republican leader in the power-sharing arrangement. 

"We are continuing to make progress and hopefully there will be white smoke soon," said Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver (D), making a dry comparison to the recent process of indicating a choice of new Pope. 

The governor did not come out from his office to give reporters his take on the budget talks.

Mr. Cuomo has a meeting with Catholic bishops at 2:30 Tuesday afternoon that he is not likely to cancel.

There could be further budget meetings, possibly before, or after. It all depends.