New York passes emergency spending plan to avoid shutdown

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 03, 2017 7:23 PM

By James Odato

ALBANY, N.Y. (Reuters) - New York lawmakers on Monday passed an emergency spending plan authorizing Governor Andrew Cuomo to pay bills and keep the state government operating for the next two months.

The state was supposed to have a budget at the start of its fiscal 2018 on Saturday, but the legislature and Cuomo failed to agree on a comprehensive plan as they debated broader policies.

Monday's stopgap, 1,700-page "extender budget" avoids a government shutdown through May 31, assuring that state agencies and contractors will provide services and roughly 200,000 state employees will get paid despite the impasse.

The full budget has been delayed in part by debate over raising the age of adult criminal responsibility to 18, which would leave North Carolina as the only state to automatically prosecute and imprison 16- and 17-year-olds as adults regardless of the crime.

"There are political and ideological differences between the Senate and Assembly. We must resolve these issues. A complete budget requires it," Cuomo, who supports lifting the age, said in a statement late on Sunday. Lawmakers and Cuomo have been divided over other issues, including a replacement for an expired program that gives tax breaks to affordable housing developers and extending a so-called millionaire's tax on wealthy New Yorkers.

Cuomo also laid some blame on uncertainty about Washington's policies, including any revised effort to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, which could strip New York of at least $4.6 billion of Medicaid and other funding.

"New York State is a target for hostile federal actions ranging from severe financial cutbacks to deprivation of legal and personal rights," said Cuomo, a Democrat who is widely touted as a possible 2020 presidential candidate.

Assembly member Fred Thiele Jr., an Independent who caucuses with Democrats, was one of several lawmakers to criticize the inclusion of policy initiatives in the budget legislation, saying from the legislative floor during voting on the bill that "we are not the platform committee for Cuomo 2020."

"They should not be forced down the throat of the legislature as part of the budget process," Thiele said during the session.

"The national stage is watching," said Assemblymember Diana Richardson, a Democrat from Brooklyn, who voted against the extension.

The budget extension authorizes $40 billion in state spending, including $10.3 billion in state appropriations, $12.4 billion aid to local governments and $17.3 billion in capital projects.

Lawmakers want to get the budget done this week. Whenever it arrives, it will be by far the latest budget since Cuomo took office in 2011.

The Republican-led Senate and Democrat-dominated Assembly endorsed the extension overwhelmingly, but many said they did so reluctantly to avoid a government shutdown.

Some were sour on the length of the extension or that it allows for $8.9 billion in new debt over the next two months. The measure authorizes billions of dollars in bond financing for bridges and infrastructure projects.

Cuomo and lawmakers are also close to a deal on plans to allow car-hailing services such as Lyft and Uber outside New York City, where they are already permitted, Assemblymember Kevin Cahill, a Democrat from Kingston who chairs the Assembly Insurance Committee, said in an interview on Monday after the voting session.

(Reporting by James Odato in Albany; Additional reporting by Hilary Russ in New York; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Richard Chang)