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Senate leader: Cuomo tax plan is not happening

ALBANY – A plan by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to raise more than $1 billion in new taxes and other revenue raising actions is dead, according to the Legislature’s top Republican.

Sen. John Flanagan, coming back to the Capitol after another private negotiating session with Cuomo and two other legislative leaders, said Senate Republicans have been firm since January that the new state budget should not be including any new tax hikes.

“We have no inclination, nor desire nor intention to raise taxes,’’ Flanagan said in a hallway interview at the Capitol with two reporters.

Asked specifically if that tax plan is dead, Flanagan, a Suffolk County Republican, said: “Yes.’’

Cuomo included the revenue raisers as a way to help balance a budget that is facing a more than $4 billion deficit. Education and health care spending is, again, expected to end up increasing a levels higher than the inflation rate.

The secret budget talks held again Friday are certainly not new to Albany. For the past few years, they’ve been called four-men-in-a-room for the gatherings that include Cuomo, Flanagan, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein.

This year a new name is emerging: four-men-in-a-mansion. It depicts the meetings that have been underway each day, called by Cuomo, at the state-owned Executive Mansion, located several blocks away from the Capitol. Traditionally, the talks are held in the governor’s Capitol office -- where reporters can linger outside to grab legislative leaders as they emerge. This year, they are being held off-campus at the governor’s mansion -- behind tall security fences and a State Police checkpoint.

The budget is due March 31, though lawmakers are rushing to complete voting before next Friday when religious holidays start. “I’m also still very confident that we’ll get the budget done on time,’’ Flanagan said.

The Senate leader said talks are ongoing over education and health care spending, aid to community colleges, upstate transit funding, New York City housing matters, steps to decrease the opioid addiction problem, regulatory relief for businesses.

There also are a host of non-fiscal issues that have been in the mix – stretching from new state efforts to address sexual harassment cases, legal avenues for child abuse victims, to ethics and campaign finance. Giving the ticking clock, Flanagan suggested a number of the non-fiscal items will be taken off the table and dealt with later during the session that goes on into June.

One issue still not resolved with “finality,’’ as Flanagan termed it, is legislative desires to increase transparency of state economic development spending. The issues has been pushed for several years, but lawmakers say the recent corruption conviction of Joseph Percoco, Cuomo’s former longtime top aide, and the upcoming Buffalo Billion trial have heightened need for the changes.

The Senate, Flanagan noted Friday, wants a “database of deals” to let the public see all the specific projects funded by the state, ending state-funded economic development advertising and to quicken the demise of the state’s Start-Up New York economic development program, which has not produced the jobs once envisioned by the governor.

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