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Cuomo, legislature Dems negotiating budget which raises taxes, extends aid to undocumented immigrants

Updated: Mar. 31, 2021 at 5:55 PM EDT
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ALBANY, N.Y. (WWNY) - Faced with a Thursday deadline to deliver an on-time state budget, Governor Cuomo and Democratic leaders of the state legislature are negotiating a spending plan which will raise taxes on New York’s wealthiest, while offering aid to undocumented immigrants.

With Democrats controlling both the state Assembly and Senate, a tax increase is a foregone conclusion. The question is: how much.

The Senate and Assembly have sought about $7 billion in new and higher taxes, from the state’s millionaires and billionaires and from businesses.

Cuomo has proposed a more modest increase, and there is reportedly about a $5 billion gap between Cuomo and the legislature.

The final state budget is likely to, for the first time ever, exceed $200 billion. Republicans continue to insist any tax increase is too much.

“California, which has twice the population, I think their budget’s like $215 billion. Florida, which has more population than New York, their budget’s $92 billion. So you can see just how out of whack we are,” said Will Barclay, the assemblyman from Pulaski who leads Republicans in the state Assembly.

Multiple news outlets report the legislature and Cuomo are working on a deal worth as much as $3.5 billion which would extend unemployment aid to undocumented immigrants and former prisoners, two groups excluded under the first two rounds of federal stimulus.

Republicans are powerless to do anything about it, but they aren’t happy.

“We are cutting some of the programs like agriculture, and, you know, the CHIPs funding for our highways. I mean, that’s crazy. We’ve gotta take care of our citizens first,” said Ken Blankenbush, the state Assemblyman who represents part of the north country and the Mohawk Valley.

Also expected as part of the budget deal: another $4 billion in school aid.

And a provision to allow mobile sports betting may make it into the budget, somehow, as well - another source of revenue for the state.

Technically, the state is supposed to have a new budget in place Thursday. That is both unlikely to happen and of no consequence - the state can go a few days over the technical limit without it affecting state workers’ pay or the checks the state sends out.

Budget director Robert Mujica said Wednesday budget talks are continuing.

“We’ve been meeting with the legislature all day, all night, the governor’s been having calls with the leaders regularly. So it’s no different than any other budget year, except this is one of the most complicated budgets in my career, and I’ve been doing this for over 20 years,” Mujica told New York-1.

“The complication is not being in the same rooms as a result of COVID, having to do things remotely, that obviously adds to the complexity of the negotiations.”

It’s also given a new nickname to budget talks, which were known for years as “Three men in a room, " because the budget would be worked out between the governor and the leaders of the state Senate and Assembly, always men.

Now, with Andrea Stewart-Cousins leading Democrats in the Senate, and given the pandemic, the budget talks have a new nickname, at least among Republicans: “Three Dems on Zoom.”

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