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Politics and Government

In final stretch before state budget deadline, lawmakers hopeful early voting will make the cut

Ellen Abbott
State Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli (D-Syracuse) speaks at a rally Friday in Syracuse

It’s the final stretch in Albany as lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo try to cobble together a new budget before the April 1 deadline.

State Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli (D-Syracuse) expects all parties to come to agreement on a $168 billion budget before the deadline. But he said coming up with the money to pay for state spending could derail negotiations between Gov. Cuomo and leaders of the Senate and Assembly.

“Revenue is the biggest problem. I think my counterparts in the Republican Senate, they like a lot of things in the budget, but they don’t want to fund them,” said Magnarelli. “We’ve got to figure out a way to do that, or cut some things of the budget so we can make it balance.”

Some Republicans are balking at Cuomo’s proposal for $1 billion in increased taxes and fees. And as usual, other initiatives are used as budget bargaining chips.  One this year is a push early voting, that would extend the opportunity to vote during a 12-day period before Election Day. New York is one of 13 states that do not offer early voting.

Magnarelli said there’s no reason to accept the fact that New York has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the nation.

“It’s not the same as it was 30 or 40 years ago,” he said. “I know a lot of people say we’ve always done it. But things have changed and we need to change with it and make sure people have the opportunity to exercise their right.”

There’s money in the proposed budget to pay counties to keep polling places open, and Magnarelli remains optimistic.

“We’re going to continue to push for it to stay on the table during the final negotiations of the budget.  I’m hopeful it will be there by the time we finish,” he said.

Last year, after several on time budgets, the state spending plan won final approval nine days after the April 1 deadline.