Final budget deal close as lawmakers vote on first spending bills

Andrew Cuomo state Capitol
Andrew Cuomo state Capitol
Philip Kamrass/Office of the Governor
Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the state Capitol.

Final budget deal close as lawmakers vote on first spending bills

Legislators are eager to leave the Capitol before the religious holidays this weekend.
March 29, 2018

State lawmakers eager to leave the Capitol before religious holidays this weekend inched closer to a budget deal on Thursday night, even as negotiations stalled on multiple fronts.

There were disagreements over how much the state will tax the upcoming sale of Fidelis, a Catholic-run health insurance plan, to Centene, Politico New York reported. Gov. Andrew Cuomo had argued that the state was entitled to levy up to 80 percent of the price of the Fidelis sale, as it had supported the insurance plan’s Medicaid distribution, and the most recent plan would allow the state to recoup “excess reserves” from Fidelis. Although lawmakers were uneasy with aggravating the Catholic Church, they needed to make up for a deficit.

There was opposition to a proposal by maverick state Sen. Simcha Felder calling for a moratorium on the state Education Department from enforcing guidelines for private schools, such as yeshivas, according to Politico New York. Felder played a pivotal role as the deciding vote in the state Senate – the Democrat caucuses with the Republicans, who are one vote shy of a 32-vote numerical majority.

Other points of contention included giving the state authority to develop the area around Penn Station, according to The New York Times, inviting pushback from city lawmakers on Wednesday but reportedly remaining on the negotiating table, and a proposal to remove firearms from people convicted of domestic violence.

At a little after 9 p.m. on Thursday, the Assembly called for the governor to send a “message of necessity” requesting a vote on the first two budget bills, the public protection and general government and education, labor and family assistance bills. The state Senate was also set to vote on the first two budget bills on Thursday night or early Friday morning.

Among the issues that appear to have been settled are an increase of $600 million in school operating aid, part of a total increase of more than $1 billion, The Buffalo News reported. Most of Cuomo’s proposed tax hikes were also heading for defeat, according to reports.

Lawmakers are hoping to finish up the budget negotiations in order to depart Albany on Friday, which is Good Friday and also the start of Passover.

Grace Segers
is City & State’s digital reporter. She writes daily content on New York City and New York state politics.