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With deadlock over, NY lawmakers poised to pass budget

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Upstate Uber, increased tuition assistance and more money for schools are just a few of the items in the new state budget poised for passage in the New York Legislature.

The State Senate began debate over the $152 billion spending plan late Tuesday night after lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo resolved a stalemate that forced them to blow past a Saturday budget deadline.

The Senate planned to return to wrap up their voting Wednesday, when the Assembly also planned to take up the budget.

"We want to get it done," said Republican Sen. John DeFrancisco of Syracuse.

The budget legislation keeps taxes flat, increases public education spending by $1 million, raises college tuition assistance and invests $2.5 billion in upgrades for the state's aging water infrastructure.

It also would allow Uber and Lyft to expand into upstate cities like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany. The two app-based ride-hailing services are now limited to the New York City area.

Another provision, a priority for Democrats, would end the state's practice of automatically prosecuting and incarcerating 16- and 17-year-old offenders as adults. 

The budget was due by Saturday, when the state began a new fiscal year. But it was delayed by disagreement over the juvenile justice reform piece, as well as education funding and an affordable housing tax credit for New York City developers.

To avert a government shutdown, lawmakers and Cuomo approved a two-month extension of the last budget on Monday. But under state law, legislative pay will be withheld until lawmakers approve a full budget, and lawmakers were eager to get back to complete their work.

"You're at the point where you might not get everything that you want," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx. "I'm not going to allow the Assembly to get blamed for there not being a budget."

As late as Tuesday afternoon, Cuomo said there was no final deal on the budget. The late negotiations meant that full details of the spending package weren't available as the votes began, forcing the public and even lawmakers to rely on promises of legislative leaders.

"This is not a rational way to do these things," said Democratic Sen. Daniel Squadron of Brooklyn. "It's a wacky process."Cuomo introduced his $152 billion budget proposal in January. It keeps the status quo when it comes to taxes, adds $1 billion in new public education spending and includes expanded child care tax credits and a new $163 million initiative making state college tuition free for students from families earning $125,000 or less annually.

 

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that New York and North Carolina are the only states that prosecute 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.  

While they are the only states that regularly route 16-year-olds into adult courts and prisons, a total of seven states still try 17-year-olds as adults and in some cases imprison them with adult inmates.  

Other states try teenagers as adults only in cases involving extreme violence or other aggravating circumstances.

New York will gradually shift 16- and 17-year-olds into family court and juvenile detention centers over the next two years.

Copyright 2017 WXXI News