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Clock ticking, time for Albany's budget term to emerge: "framework"

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – Legislative leaders late this morning emerged from nearly two hours of closed-door talks with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to – in the 58 seconds they spent with a couple dozen reporters gathered outside the governor’s office – to declare they are closing in on a final 2014 state budget deal.

Of course, they have to be, given the time on the clock, and the thousands of pages of budget bills that have to be introduced by tomorrow night if the measures are to go through the legal, three-day "aging" process for bills to be passed on Monday before Tuesday’s fiscal year start. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, did most of the talking, saying the sides are hoping for "a concluding meeting" this afternoon with Cuomo.

"We are moving toward a framework," Silver said.

"Framework" is the Albany term used to describe the situation where governors and legislative leaders come before the press to announce a budget deal. Details provided once a framework deal is announced are, typically, selective. For instance, the public will not know how much money their individual school districts across the state will be getting in state aid – a key component of how much they will pay in property taxes – until Sunday night at the earliest.

The term "framework" has become the description of choice in more recent times in Albany to characterize an agreement on broad details of the budget while staffers spend the next 24 hours working non-stop to put the final details together. "Framework" has replaced "conceptual" as the term of choice, though one year, a legislative leader described a budget deal as a "virtual" one.

Besides Cuomo and Silver, the meetings include State Senate co-leaders Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, and Sen. Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat, who heads a small breakaway group of Democrats who jointly run the State Senate.

State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the leader of the main Senate Democratic group who has been cut out of budget talks because her conference is in the minority in the chamber, did go into a meeting in the governor's suite of offices while Cuomo and the other legislative leaders were meeting. But she was not invited in to meet with them during her visit, instead holding a session with staffers.

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