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Albany from above. Photo: <a href="">Karthik Chinnathambi</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Albany from above. Photo: Karthik Chinnathambi, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

NYS budget negotiations, disagreements over pre-K, continue in Capitol

This week will be crucial for negotiations on the state budget.

Tensions ran high Friday at a closed-door leaders' meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos abruptly left the final leaders meeting before the weekend early, complaining there was too much emphasis on the needs of the New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio at the expense of the rest of the state.

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Reported by

Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

"It seems that certain members of the room, that represent another branch, their only concern is about New York City," Skelos said. "We have a problem right now. Hopefully we can work it out. But we'll see."

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who emerged around half an hour later from the Governor's office, says the Senator was "rather agitated," but claimed not to know why.

"I am focused on the education of the students of this state," Silver said. "If the Senator has a problem with that, that's unfortunate."

A major sticking point is how much money to allow for universal pre-Kindergarten. There are different estimates over how long it will take various school districts to have a program up and running, and whether all of the money will be needed by next September. Speaker Silver says he is still seeking what he calls a "reliable" funding source for schools who commit to pre-K. He says he's open to state funding, but also still supports Mayor de Blasio's request to raise income taxes on the wealthy. That proposal has been declared dead by Senate Republicans.

Silver then took a shot at the sometimes-contradictory positions in the Senate budget which was written by the Republicans and their co-leaders, a group of breakaway Democrats. Silver called their resolution "fiction".

Gov. Cuomo did not comment after the meeting, but said earlier that his number on item is tax cuts, including a plan to reduce business taxes. And he says he's resisting attempts by the legislature to add hundreds of millions of dollars to the budget.

"It's important for us to lower taxes in the state," said Cuomo.

Blowups are not unusual in the days before the final budget agreement. In fact, many at the Capitol believe the increased intensity is a sign of progress. Cuomo and lawmakers still say they are on track to finish by April 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

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