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Budget negotiations continued at Capitol

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders are still struggling to come to a final budget agreement, after the time for an expected announcement came and went on Friday.

Optimistic lawmakers had predicted a final accord on the budget by mid day Friday, but in the end, were unable to achieve that goal.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, just before leaving the Capitol for what he said was a meeting, said details on many issues have not been resolved. He denied that a final agreement on an ethics package and public campaign financing was the only major item now holding up the spending plan.  

“There’s language on education, there’ s language on UPK [university pre-kindergarten],” said Silver. “They’re all sticking points.”

The budget will likely include $300 million for pre-kindergarten programs in New York City, and at least $40 million for programs in the rest of the state, as well as more money for kindergarten through 12 schooling.

Cuomo and the leaders needed an agreement by the end of the day Friday in order to allow the bills to be available to the public for a three-day waiting period before a vote can be held.

The governor has the power to forgo that, by issuing an emergency message to permit bills to be voted on immediately.  Silver says that’s a possibility.

“I’m optimistic that we won’t need messages,” Silver said on Friday afternoon. “But obviously the clock is ticking.”

If Cuomo issues the messages, then lawmakers have until Monday to decide on a final budget agreement and still meet the deadline by midnight March 31.

Later Friday afternoon, Senate Republican co-leader Dean Skelos left a meeting with Cuomo saying he thinks there is a budget deal. Senate Democratic co-leader Jeff Klein left the same meeting minutes later saying there was no deal, but they were extremely close.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.