Anyone who has heard one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State addresses is familiar with a favorite talking point: After years of late budgets and legislative sessions that went on months passed the scheduled last day, he has swooped in and restored order to Albany.
“We began the year by closing a $10 billion deficit with no gimmicks, and we did it on time,” Cuomo said during his 2012 State of the State as he recalled his first budget. A year later, he told the audience that “we passed responsible budgets and we passed them on time.” In 2014, he touted the fact that “for the first time in 30 years, we broke the gridlock that had plagued Albany and we passed three on time budgets in a row.”
In 2015, he missed the state budget deadline by a few hours, prompting the governor to adjust his phrasing slightly to “timely” if not necessarily “on time” budgets. Indeed, earlier this year his administration was still touting its “six consecutive timely and balanced budgets.”
But this year there is no sign that a final budget deal is in place, the April 1 deadline is just hours away and lawmakers are openly talking about continuing on into Saturday – which could make this the first year the governor completely fails to live up to his own standard.
Already this year, the deadline to pass a budget without messages of necessity – which waive the need to introduce legislation three days before a vote – came and went on Tuesday. Now, there are rumors around the state Capitol that legislative leaders may have a deal tomorrow but members will have to come back Monday to vote on it.
One factor is the state Senate Republicans’ razor-thin majority. State Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat who conferences with Republicans, is an Orthodox Jew and needs to be home by sundown on Fridays, and Republicans need his vote. There is a chance that an agreement could be reached Friday and quickly passed, but it seems highly unlikely at this point. The state Senate’s session is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. on Friday.
One potential defense is that because April 1 is on the weekend, it makes no difference as far as the state’s finances go to wait until the next business day. Experts also say a late budget doesn’t really have much of an impact on the state’s residents. And the governor has at times insisted he would rather have a good budget than an on-time budget – but that hasn’t kept him from praising his own punctuality.
And it seems highly unlikely that Cuomo would ever concede he technically hasn’t delivered an on-time budget.