ALBANY – The state government, whose leaders like to say is a smooth-running machine, stumbled for another day Thursday in an attempt to close down final big policy deals and end the 2015 legislative session.
It was another day of private talks between Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders, and another day of all of them refusing to provide any specifics about, well, anything.
By Thursday night, the one thing Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan could agree on: It’s time to stick a fork in the prospects for breakthroughs for this week.
The Senate was set to wrap up work for the week late Thursday night with the Assembly coming back into session Friday; Heastie and Flanagan told members to expect to return Tuesday to try again on the stalled issues.
The governor kept himself out of public view again, a sharp difference from the past several New York governors, who would negotiate in private but emerge from their offices to make their cases to the public.
The ongoing talks did have one impact: It forced Cuomo to cancel his appearance at a deep-pocket fundraiser for his political campaign that he was to attend Thursday evening at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.
Though his administration did not say so, the optics of attending such a gala might have been sour for the governor, especially given who might have been there donating money to him and at a time when two million New York City tenants saw their rent-control protections expire earlier this week.
As they have all week, the issues at a stalemate remain the same: New York City rent control; tax breaks for New York City developers; New York City mayoral control over schools; an education tax break to especially benefit private and religious schools; whether to extend now the state’s property tax program that expires next year; additional funding for schools after what Cuomo called a record aid increase this past March; and whether to raise from 16 to 18 the age at which most teens can be tried as an adult.
Asked after an afternoon meeting with Cuomo why they can’t close down a deal, Heastie said, “People have different ideas, different constituencies, different ideologies.”
Heastie said it is likely lawmakers will be returning next week “unless something dramatic happens” to get agreements approved at the leadership level, turned into bill copy and then passed by lawmakers.
One dynamic playing out this week is Cuomo’s insistence that he meet separately with Heastie and Flanagan, reducing Albany’s three-men-in-a-room history to two-men-in-a-room at a time. Heastie said he and Flanagan talk with each other, but added, “If the governor asks you to come down to a meeting, you know, we’re trying to get something done.”
The scene here is certainly repetitive. For his part, Flanagan sometimes tries to avoid the media by taking any number of paths to make his way to Cuomo’s office.
When he does talk in public, it is brief before he takes off in his increasingly famous speed-walking ways through the Capitol hallways. When Heastie emerges from Cuomo’s office, he, too, talks very briefly and without specifics before leading the press corps on a slower – than Flanagan anyway – trek back to his third-floor office suite.