NY Gov Cuomo, lawmakers agree on revenue estimates

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 02, 2012 5:59 PM
NY Gov Cuomo, lawmakers agree on revenue estimates

By Joan Gralla

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state's legislature agreed to revenue estimates for the new budget on Friday, a legally required step in order to enact the budget by the April 1 deadline.

The new and higher estimates for revenue, which include taxes, fees and other income, range from $133 million to $315 million, just 0.3 percent above Cuomo's earlier forecasts.

Cuomo's $132.5 billion budget proposal must close a $2 billion gap - just one-fifth of last year's $10 billion deficit, caused by falling tax revenues after the 2008-2009 recession.

On Tuesday at a dinner hosted by the Citizens Budget Commission, Cuomo vowed to protect counties, cities and towns, saying: "I will absorb the cuts on my level of government."

The governor, a Democrat now negotiating his second budget, last year met the state's April 1 deadline, the first time in five years that the accord was not late.

His efforts, which included an unpopular $1.3 billion cut in education aid, were striking in a state government regarded as among the nation's most dysfunctional.

Cuomo has already won the legislature's approval of one of the two issues he said were the most important ones in the current session: An agreement on how teachers are evaluated.

NO ROOM FOR 'BARTER' ON DNA

His second priority is a bill expanding a DNA database to track criminals, which has already been approved by the Senate. Cuomo wants DNA samples taken from everyone convicted of a felony or misdemeanor; currently some misdemeanors are excluded.

This issue is one of importance to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat who wants to ensure that people who are innocent of crimes can benefit from the DNA database as well.

Michael Whyland, the speaker's spokesman, said by email that staff from the Assembly and the governor's office were having "productive" talks to resolve the Assembly speaker's concerns.

The balance of power between the governor and legislators was upended under former Democratic Governor David Paterson. With the state routinely missing budget deadlines, Paterson would propose so-called "extender" bills to keep the government running, and he started including parts of his budget in those bills.

This forced lawmakers to choose between approving budget proposals they might disagree with, or shutting the government down.

Silver has often made the most of his power by holding out on issues, including the budget, until governors accept some of his terms on other matters.

On the DNA bill, Cuomo said he told the Assembly, "You want to talk (about) other issues. That is fine, but this is not a barter situation."

Cuomo, taking a leaf from Paterson, had threatened to include his teachers' evaluations plan in amendments submitted 30 days after the budget plan if no accord was reached.

"That would have been explosive and controversial, and that would have changed the whole tone of this session; that was the risk and I knew that," he said.

Kenneth Sherrill, a political science professor at Hunter College, said the DNA battle could be part of the legislature's struggle to deal with its reduced powers.

"This has got to stick in the legislature's craw," Sherrill said. "You could argue that our constitutional system was designed to have multiple veto points in order to prevent abuses of power."

(Reporting by Joan Gralla; Editing by Jan Paschal)