Albany Agenda

With the passage of April 11 extender, solar eclipse triumphs over state budget

It was a race to see which happened first, and New York lost.

Gov. Kathy Hochul is celebrating the total solar eclipse in Niagara Falls while the budget continues being extended.

Gov. Kathy Hochul is celebrating the total solar eclipse in Niagara Falls while the budget continues being extended. Mike Groll/Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul

The state Legislature has pushed the deadline to adopt a new budget until Thursday, pending approval from Gov. Kathy Hochul. Lawmakers predict that a deal is not guaranteed this week and that a new extender beyond April 11 may be necessary.

The budget extender was necessary to keep the government funded and its employees paid while negotiations continued. The state Senate passed its extender on Monday, ahead of a solar eclipse that proved so alluring that the Assembly passed its on Sunday so that lawmakers could view the celestial sight in their home districts.

State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris said Monday that getting a deal done this week may prove difficult, but the Legislature would work fast because spillover beyond next week would mean contending with Passover, which begins April 22. Hochul, he added, wasn’t working against a possible deal.

“We’re just trying to get through it as quickly as we can,” Gianaris said. “I don’t think anyone is operating in bad faith at this point.”

Although education funding changes were nixed from the list of possible holdups, myriad other policy items, like housing or pension reform, could contribute to a delayed budget. To the consternation of some lawmakers though, the disappearance of the sun joined the list.

Republican Assembly Member Ed Ra took issue with the fact his chamber wouldn’t be in session Monday.

“Not only do we not have a budget done, but tomorrow was a scheduled session and that does make me question what the priorities are in this chamber and in this government,” Ra said on Sunday. “We could be doing this tomorrow afternoon, and the sun’s going to disappear for a while, (but) we’re very used to passing a budget in the dark in this chamber.”

New York Public Interest Research Group Executive Director Blair Horner said that while the eclipse “is a first,” it’s not as if it’s the reason the budget is late.

“Nothing about the eclipse slowed down the parade,” Horner said. “All I think it did was make the Assembly vote on an extender yesterday as compared to today. But the budget being late is a function of the governor and the legislative leaders not coming to an agreement and that doesn’t look like that’s happening anytime soon.”

Onlookers to budget talks have heard several metaphors for how close to a deal leaders are, involving trains, planets, neighborhoods and examinations of the concept of beginnings middles and ends, but according to him the only people who have a clue where things are trending are the ones hammering out a deal on the second floor of the Capitol.

“They’re not telling anyone,” Horner said. “You can read all the tea leaves you want, but it’s not necessarily going to tell you when the budget’s going to be done.”