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We took the hit over the last two years, we’ve already closed prisons in upstate New York. And they create jobs.

Prison closures sticking point in budget talks

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The state legislature is continuing conference committee meetings on the budget. But lawmakers say there are still some sticking points to reaching agreement by next week's deadline. Karen Dewitt reports.

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Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

Republicans who run the Senate agree with Governor Cuomo on the broad principles of his budget, including the governor’s nearly $10 billion dollars in cuts. They also, along with the governor, reject a plan advanced by the State Assembly to extend a temporary income tax surcharge on the state’s millionaires. 

But Senate Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous, a Binghamton Republican, says there are some points of disagreement. Cuomo wants the legislature to eliminate 3500 prison beds in the budget, but a panel to decide which prisons might close has not yet been appointed, and the recommendations for closures from that group would not occur until May, a month after the budget is scheduled to be approved.

Senator Libous says many upstate Senators have prisons in their districts, which provide hundreds of local jobs.

“We took the hit over the last two years, we’ve already closed prisons in upstate New York,” said Libous. “And they create jobs.

Right now there aren’t a lot of jobs.”

He says Senators are reluctant to sign off without knowing where the closures could occur.

The Senate, as well as the Assembly, also want to add between $200 and $300 million more dollars in school aid, primarily to schools that they believe were shortchanged in Cuomo’s school aid distribution plan. Libous says the Senate plan won’t require more spending overall though, the additional school aid comes from shifts in other funds.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has indicated in recent days that, in addition to passing the budget by March 31st, he’d like to tie two additional items to the budget, a reform of New York City’s rent control laws, which sunset in June, and the imposition of an across the board 2% property tax cap, a key proposal that the governor has been seeking. 

“My position is, I would like to see them done in the budget,” Cuomo said. “ I think they’re relevant.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver first proposed the idea of linking the two issues during a speech at the State of the State message on January 5th. Initially, Cuomo and Senate leaders rejected the idea of tying the two items together. 

Senator Libous says he doubts either rent law reform or the property tax cap will end up in final budget, and will be decided later in the legislative session.

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