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VOL. 41 | NO. 13 | Friday, March 31, 2017

Senate approves 2-month $40 billion state budget extension

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Reluctant state senators on Monday passed an emergency budget extension proposed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sidestep the looming government shutdown resulting from gridlock in Albany.

The Senate approved dual bills 46-15 to extend the current state budget for two months or until an agreement is reached. The Assembly was expected to approve the measure later Monday, making it official.

The budget was due Saturday, but lawmakers and Cuomo couldn't agree on issues including juvenile justice reform, education spending and an affordable housing tax credit in New York City.

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Yonkers Democrat, said the $40 billion extender will allow government workers to be paid while lawmakers continue to wrangle out agreements, including on an effort to raise the age of adult criminal responsibility from 16 to 18.

"We should be mindful that this extender, which does keep our government running ... is really again for all of us a signal for the growing dysfunction here in Albany," Stewart-Cousins said.

Others who voted against the measure held firm to declarations made by Democratic leadership that members would not sign off on any budget item without the juvenile justice reforms. Lawmakers spent the weekend in the Capitol hoping to work out a last-minute deal, to no avail.

"I didn't even go to church yesterday," Bronx Democrat Sen. Ruben Diaz said. "Because I committed myself. I said I'm going to be here to be sure raise the age goes in. ... What happened to all of you? What happened to your commitment?"

Cuomo introduced his $152 billion budget proposal in January. The proposal would keep the status quo when it comes to taxes, add $1 billion in new public education spending and include expanded child care tax credits and a new initiative making state college tuition free for students from families earning $125,000 or less annually.

Cuomo introduced the two-month stopgap budget bill Sunday to ensure government dollars continue to flow into payroll, projects and state services.

Republican Senate Leader Sen. John Flanagan, of Long Island, said he's hopeful members of the legislature can pass a budget before the May 31 deadline, especially after returning home to their constituents during an upcoming break in April.

"I believe we can get there," Flanagan said. "We want to make sure we are meeting our obligations, and, at least right now, I believe we're doing it."

Lawmakers won't be paid until a final budget is adopted.