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Skelos: Senate will support prison closings

ALBANY -- Senate Republicans will accept up to six prison closings, so long as they are spread between Democratic and Republican legislative districts, according to Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

Skelos said the Senate proposal –- a reaction to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s less-defined prison-closing plan -– would call for up to 3,600 bed reductions and the shuttering of five or six prison facilities. He declined to name which ones might be on the Senate list, saying he wanted to first present the idea to Cuomo.

"There will be some in Republican districts … unlike when the Democrats controlled everything. Every bed they closed was in Republican districts. So, we’re going to try to do this both from a positive way governmentally, but also it’s not going to be done in a partisan way," Skelos, a Long Island Republican, told reporters at the Capitol this morning.

In his budget plan, the governor floated closing about 3,500 beds to save $72 million. But he did not identify the number or locations of the affected facilities. He said a task force could come up with the specific prisons to close after the budget is adopted, an idea that does not sit well with Senate Republicans. Cuomo also proposed giving $10 million to communities where prisons shut down as a way to ease the job losses.

For Senate Republicans, whose ranks come heavily from upstate, including many communities that rely on prisons for jobs, the issue has become a major sticking point in budget talks.

Skelos said the plan he will present Cuomo focuses heavily on minimum-security closings, which have seen their inmate ranks reduced over the years, in part, because of criminal justice sentencing law changes.

As Skelos talked up the likelihood of an ontime budget by March 31, Cuomo today ratcheted up the rhetoric against the Legislature if it is late. He said a late budget could lead to a government shutdown, which would be the fault of the Legislature.

“If the Legislature fails to pass a budget on time, the government will not have the funds to operate, and it may be forced to shut down," Cuomo said this video his office released this morning.

--Tom Precious

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