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Smiles outside, fights backstage in budget talks

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Legislative leaders were all confident and smiling again about the pace of negotiations over a 2014 state budget that needs to be approved by Monday to be considered timely before the start of the fiscal year on April 1.

But behind the scenes, the battles continued. Last week, it was Senate co-leader Dean Skelos who blew off some steam in closed-door budget talks. Today, it was Larry Schwartz, the secretary to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Sources close to the talks said an angry Schwartz said he was quitting before he exited the negotiating room on the second floor.

No such words were uttered by Schwartz, Cuomo administration officials said. They chalked up Schwartz's departure from the negotiating session as part of the normal blow-ups that mark the closing days before a final budget deal is reached. Indeed, there is a long history in Albany of negotiators, many of whom are getting by on too little sleep and too much caffeine, getting into yellling matches before the handshake deals come. One year, it took a trip by legislative leaders to a nearby Ben & Jerry's ice cream parlor to make amends before a budget deal.

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