Failing to reach a state budget agreement over the weekend, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is resorting to a strategy popularized by his predecessor, David Paterson: a temporary budget extender.
“Given the inability of both houses to reach an agreement, I am sending up an extender of the current budget to keep the government fully functioning until May 31,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement issued late Sunday night. “I have spoken to both leaders who have agreed to pass the extender bill by tomorrow afternoon, which is the necessary deadline to keep government fully functioning.”
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a statement Sunday night that his chamber was prepared to passed the budget extender " should one be necessary to avoid a shutdown of government while we resolve these issues." Heastie said "productive talks" were ongoing and that he "will be working hard through the night to resolve the remaining issues."
Cuomo, who prides himself on on-time budgets, found a deal to be unusually elusive this year. It’s all the more remarkable after six consecutive budgets finalized before the deadline – or within a few hours of it – since he took office in 2011.
The governor sought to explain the delay as a response to looming federal cuts that could have a major impact in New York. But he also acknowledged the lack of a “total agreement” on Raise the Age and affordable housing.
“The Legislature has not been able to reach total agreement on all issues necessary for a complete annual agenda,” the governor said. “Raise the Age and affordable housing are especially controversial politically, but necessary governmentally. I will not accept ‘half a loaf’ on these issues.”
The main holdup, Raise the Age, is a proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18 years old. Currently, 16- and 17-year-olds are tried as adults in the criminal justice system in New York, which is one of two states that do so.
“New York is one of only two states in the nation to treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults for purposes of criminal responsibility,” Cuomo said in his statement. “Draconian punishments for youthful mistakes have ruined the lives of countless young New Yorkers. We must pass ‘Raise the Age’ once and for all.”
The temporary spending legislation will keep state government operating while the longer term spending plan is finalized, assuming the governor’s deal with legislative leaders holds into Monday.
The move is not a surprise. Cuomo had warned of an extender days ago, and late Friday night he warned that if there were no deal over the weekend, he would “put forth emergency legislation to extend the current budget.” He cited the potential impact of cuts in the federal budget, which he said comes out May 21.
Budget extenders haven’t been used in Albany since Gov. David Paterson was in office. Paterson introduced partial budget extenders to avoid a government shutdown, using his leverage to ram through spending cuts.
If he chose, Cuomo could use extenders to force through additional measures, forcing lawmakers to vote for his budget extenders – and anything he includes in them – or risk being blamed for shutting down state government.
To that point, the state Senate Democrats called on Cuomo earlier Sunday evening to put in place certain legislation, including Raise the Age, through an extender.
“The Governor’s threat of a budget extender provides an opportunity to advance progressive legislation currently blocked by the Senate Majority Coalition,” Senate Democratic Conference Communications Director Mike Murphy said in a statement. “The Governor’s extender should include the real Raise The Age proposal, a college affordability plan including the DREAM Act, fully fund public education, and create real voting and ethics reforms.”
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