ALBANY – The State Senate and Assembly will not be taking up the controversial matter of casino expansion when they approve their separate budget measures next week, sending a signal to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that the issue should be set aside if he wants an on-time budget this year.
As part of an annual ritual where the majority parties of each house pass their own alternative budget resolutions or bills, the two houses Friday agreed on one major point: There is plenty of time after the budget to take up Cuomo’s plan to permit up to seven new casinos in the state.
Sources familiar with the plans confirmed Friday that the sides are too far apart on the gambling plan to try to resolve it in time to get what they hope will be early passage of the 2013 state budget.
While legislators in both parties agree they want to shelve gambling talks for now, the two houses were putting the final touches on their own one-house budget plans for lawmakers to consider Monday. Predictably, the more left-leaning Assembly Democrats on Friday said they want more state money spent on education, localities and a new program to give college aid to children of illegal immigrants. Senate Republicans touted their more than $2 billion in proposed tax breaks for businesses and property taxpayers.
Whether any of the ideas are accepted in the final deal could be known in the next two weeks.
Cuomo’s budget proposes “enabling’’ language to accompany a separate resolution lawmakers are considering this year to add the new full-blown, Las Vegas-style casinos on non-Indian lands. In those enabling provisions, Cuomo seeks to locate the first three casinos somewhere upstate – he does not say where, or where the other four might go in the future.
The Senate and Assembly budget measures are largely symbolic, but they also make lawmakers essentially show their cards on matters that the sides are likely discussing in secret budget talks.
The Assembly plan, for instance, will seek to spend $25 million on a New York Dream Act, which would provide state college tuition assistance to children of illegal immigrants and a $220 million increase above Cuomo’s plan in funding for cities, towns and villages, including $18 million more in aid for Buffalo. The Assembly plan also calls for a total of $21.1 billion in state aid for public schools, including a $334 million increase over the $500 million boost in the main school aid program proposed by the governor.
Senate Republicans said their budget measure being readied for a vote next week will include tax breaks for small businesses, utility ratepayers, manufacturers and property taxpayers.
Both houses also agreed to restore $120 million in Cuomo’s proposed cuts to programs for developmentally disabled people as a way to prevent what advocates said would have been sharp cutbacks in services.
Cuomo could force a showdown with legislators over the casino matter and a plan to raise the minimum wage – two issues he inserted into the budget even though neither issue has any real impact on the 2013 fiscal year plan.
Cuomo has been talking up the prospect for an early budget – lawmakers will leave March 21 for the religious holidays – before the April 1 fiscal year. And he has indicated he could be open to removing those two items from his budget and resolving them before the end of session in June.