By Tom Precious
ALBANY -- Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver just told his colleagues in a closed-door Democratic conference that he expects the "mother ship'' -- the main legislative budget conference committee -- to meet at 7 tonight and the rest of the subject-area committees to start meeting Thursday.
Of course, that all depends on the Senate and its ability to get a one-house budget resolution introduced and passed today. Neither had happened as 1 p.m. approached.
The conference committee process, which offers rank-and-file lawmakers fiscal crumbs to wrangle over given the size of the overall budget, does at least signal the beginning of the end of the budget negotiations. The "mother ship'' is the committee that features legislative leaders and a few of their appointees. The talks over the most controversial issues will, as ususal, be handled by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders in secret over the next several weeks.
The Assembly this afternoon is due to pass its own-one house budget plan.
In the Senate, Republicans and a small group of breakaway Democrats -- who together control the chamber -- have been arguing over everything from the Dream Act, a campaign finance measure, property taxes and public school matters. Albany will know when those arguments end when the Senate puts out its one-house budget plan.
Whether that can all happen by 7 p.m. is unknown, though ambitious would be one word to describe the prospects.
UPDATE: Shocking, but plans made in Albany in the morning didn't quite turn out by the time the sun set. The Senate just broke for the evening and won't be back until 11am Thursday. Senate leaders were unable to agree on a budget resolution to move to the floor this evening, a document that lawmakers say will be intentionally vague and not include any budget bills as have been debated all afternoon in the Assembly. The budget conference committee process cannot start until the Senate adopts its budget resolution.