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Today's budget fight: economic development dollars

By Tom Precious

Albany – Lawmakers are raising concerns that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying to grab too much power over how state economic development money is spent through the 10 regional councils spread around the state.

The issue is one of the final logjams holding up a final deal, though there are still a number of education and health care disagreements still unresolved, as well as how to handle possible changes to the state’s new gun control law.

“There’s a concern the governor is attempting to expand the role of regional economic development councils to the exclusion of the Legislature,’’ Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told reporters following a brief closed-door meeting with Cuomo and legislative leaders at the Capitol this morning.

While the sides were all talking about progress on the 2013 budget, each day over the past week another major dispute has surfaced that has kept the sides from closing.

The economic development issue is a sensitive one. The economic development councils are seen as Cuomo vehicles to disperse state cash, and while some lawmakers were put on the groups last year Silver himself said he was denied basic information about even who was applying for grant money.

“We are part of an appropriation process here and we should continue to be part of an appropriation process, and if there is no legislative authority for economic development councils, members are not subject to any rules or regulations, and it’s a question of taking over appropriation authority in its entirety (it) is probably not appropriate,’’ the Democratic lawmaker from Manhattan said.

Silver floated the idea of the Legislature having to approve the specific grant spending by the regional councils, instead of the current blank-check system that has lawmakers giving broad overall totals to the program but with no real role in how money is spent.

Other tentative budget deals are holding, including one to raise the minimum wage. Overnight, a flurry of calls was made by advocacy groups critical of the deal that cuts out workers who make tips from the wage hike.

But Senate co-leader Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat, appeared unmoved. “You’re beyond the minimum wage,’’ he said of those workers whose wages are supplemented, sometimes, by healthy tip income.

For his part, Senate co-leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, hurried past reporters following his meeting with Cuomo and the Democratic leaders. “We’re making progress…We’re all happy,’’ he said. Skelos said the sides hope to announce final deals today.

It will be another long week in Albany. Lawmakers, at best, are now talking about voting on budget bills not starting until Saturday night and going into Sunday and maybe Monday.


Albany | 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.

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.

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 |

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 |