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State budget talks advance, retreat in Albany

ALBANY – Even the coyote fell asleep.

Progress on a new state budget limped along for another day Tuesday, a day after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders held a private meeting that was described -- in its most generous term – as explosive in tone and language.

About the most exciting news of the day was the discovery of a coyote – asleep – on a terrace outside the state museum overlooking the state Capitol.

The day also produced some new plans being discussed as part of the budget.

One called for the creation of a commission that would guide movement toward the first legislative pay raise since 1999. It would seem unlikely such a plan would be embraced by Senate Republicans, who are in a scramble to try to retain control of the 63-member chamber in an election year for all lawmakers.

There was the sudden attempt by at least one casino in the state to get a government-subsidized bailout to cope with projected revenue shortfalls.

Charter school interests were pressing for budget benefits and Sen. Simcha Felder – a Brooklyn Democrat who conferences with Republicans – was using his potential swing power vote to press for several causes.

After an evening meeting with Cuomo, legislative leaders emerged sounding slightly more confident. Sen. Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat who leads a breakaway group of Democrats that has an alliance with Republicans, went so far as to say there was a “tentative budget deal.’’

Moments later, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, also a Bronx Democrat who attended the same meeting as Klein, emerged from Cuomo's office to say there was no tentative deal.

Lawmakers are, despite a noticeably more relaxed pace Tuesday, pressing to enact a final budget late Thursday or sometime Friday morning. Christian and Jewish holidays start on Friday and lawmakers plan a break after that until April 16.

Those involved in the talks said a number of key policy issues – unrelated to the actual budget – are still a thorn in the side for some lawmakers.

Efforts to relax certain criminal bail requirements are dead, or not. Senate Republicans want new security measures at public schools, including more funding for armed school resource officers, while Assembly Democrats said additional gun control measures are their priority.

Among the proposals given tentative approval Tuesday is the creation of a $100 million surcharge on opioid manufacturers and distributors that would go to a dedicated fund for treatment and prevention efforts to address the prescription drug addiction problem.

Still, as of late Tuesday, lawmakers in the Assembly and Senate had not been briefed on one of the largest areas of the state budget: state aid to education, which will total more than $26 billion.

Until that and other crucial steps happen, any announced deals are tentative.

As for the coyote, it was tranquilized and taken to a nearby state lab for testing.

$1 billion more in school funding could be part of state budget as talks intensify

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