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UPDATE: State Senate sets Sunday budget votes

By Tom Precious

UPDATE

ALBANY -- The Senate is now saying anchors away. They are coming back Sunday at 3 p.m. to begin passing the budget bills that were printed days ago (like the capital, public protection and general government and legislative budget bills). So what about the ones still hanging out there that affects millions of New Yorkers, like state aid to education? Or the big revenue bill with all its (mostly back-loaded into 2014) tax cuts? Or the minimum wage hike?

Well, we haven't seen those yet, and if they aren't in print by tonight that means the Senate won't be able to take them up even on Tuesday. That is unless, of course, Cuomo gives the Senate a message of necessity to avoid having to let those bills age three business days. That's the message of necessity power he used in January to quickly get the gun control bill onto the floor, a route still being criticized, including in lawsuits, by gun control advocates. Cuomo has said he has "no plans'' to give such a message with the budget. Key word: "plans."

And, as any good insider must be wondering: how are they going to work out the school runs? Those are documents that details, in tiny type and many lines, the various pots of money that all add up to how much money each school district in the state will get in the budget. There is no better kept, and time-honored secret, than the annual school run process. It is the most bread and butter moment for rank-and-file lawmakers; few lawmakers may read the thousands of pages of the state budget, but all of them read every last line of the school runs because they know there is nothing else in the fiscal plan that so directly affects so many constituents.

The documents are put together in secret by only a few staffers who actually understand how the formula works. Then the documents are locked up in a room at the state education department across the street from the Capitol until both Senate and Assembly staffers are called to bring the school run documents on carts at the exact same moment to be delivered to anxious senators and members of the Assembly.

So, under the Senate's thinking with their budget adoption schedule, Senate staffers say they will be releasing the school runs when the education budget bill is adopted, which they say could be in the early morning hours of Tuesday. That's two days before Assembly members return to town.

One has to wonder, given the strangeness of how this process is playing out during what was to be a vacation week for lawmakers: how many legislators have non-refundable travel tickets?

ORIGINAL POST

It's been called the "easy'' budget, the "boring'' budget, the "simple'' budget.

Not so.

Lawmakers were to return Sunday afternoon to start passing budget bills and wrap up things on Monday. But Assembly officials are now saying the return of lawmakers has been put off until Thursday at 10:30am. (That's when a small window opens during the Passover Jewish holiday and the day before the Good Friday Christian holiday.)

Things did not look good this morning when the internal bill tracking system was down and by this afternoon showed that none of the remaining budget bills -- key ones, like education and revenue bills -- were in by midnight last night to let them age for three days for passage on Monday.

No word from the Senate yet on its timetable, but it takes two to make a budget. (See update above for how strange this 2013 budget process is becoming.) News of the Assembly not coming back was confirmed in an email from Mike Whyland, the spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Whyland said, though, that there are no major problems, but it has come down to a scheduling issue.

Recall that it was Wednesday evening when Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders announced they had reached a deal on the 2012 budget and were talking about budget bills being passed starting on Saturday -- as in yesterday.

The sides have been stuck on some final tax break matters, relaxing marijuana laws and other provisions. And there has been no sign of specific state aid numbers for the state's 700 school districts.

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Andrew Cuomo
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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

rmccarthy@buffnews.com


Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

tprecious@buffnews.com


Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri | jterreri@buffnews.com


Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski | jzremski@buffnews.com

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