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Cuomo in 'no great rush' to send budget bills to Assembly, Senate

ALBANY – Assembly and Senate leaders Tuesday urged Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to send them budget bills that they already agreed upon and added they will stay in town this week to pass a final spending bill.

“We in the Assembly don’t want to hold up the budget anymore. Send the bills,’’ Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said Tuesday afternoon.

But Cuomo responded there is “no great rush” to wrap up the entire $160 billion fiscal plan.

“The government is working, the projects are happening, so the pressure is really off the entire situation,’’ Cuomo said a day after he got lawmakers to approve billions of dollars in non-emergency spending initiatives.

Included in that spending bill was more than $16 billion for economic development, roads, parks and other work. Lawmakers had no choice but to pass the bill or risk or they would risk shutting down the state government.

Other issues remain unresolved, including criminal justice, education and housing issues.

“My guess is we’ll work them out after the Easter break,’’ Cuomo said.

The Legislature is scheduled to work Wednesday and then take off until April 24.

“Everything in government that has to function is functioning,’’ Cuomo said.

But by Tuesday evening, Cuomo did send some of the budget bills. The Senate was trying to take up at least a couple, but the measures need to go through many hours still of closed-door meetings by Senate Democrats, who have been cut out of the budget process and were seeing the actual budget bills for the first time.

In the Assembly, lawmakers adjourned and are due back Wednesday morning.

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The governor had strongly pressed legislative leaders in private meetings for an on-time budget but the two houses rebuffed him when deals on several controversial issues could not be resolved. Now, the Legislature has lost its negotiating hammer over Cuomo, who got several projects he wanted funded in the emergency budget extender bills.

Lawmakers OK'd a full year of spending for economic development and various construction projects that the Cuomo administration controls.

In the meantime, under a law OK'd years ago, salaries for lawmakers have been suspended until a final budget is in place.

“I think he’s wrong,’’ Heastie said of Cuomo’s claim today that there is no longer a rush to complete a budget.

He noted that school districts must adopt their budget by later this month so that they can go to voters in May.

“School districts need certainty in their budgets,’’ Heastie said after a closed-door meeting with his fellow Democrats.

A spokesman for the Senate Republicans said a half-dozen or so bills were agreed to days ago and that Cuomo should at least send those measures to the Legislature for consideration.

Until Tuesday, lawmakers had been insisting that there would be no budget votes – or even public release of the bills – unless every last item in the budget talks is resolved.

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