Legislative leaders continued to insist Tuesday that a deal on a $136 billion state spending plan is within reach, while issues like decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana and restoring New York City school aid are still being discussed.
Top lawmakers emerged Tuesday morning with no final budget deal after meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo for about an hour, the latest in a series of lengthy negotiating sessions over the past several days.
“We’re working on narrowing more issues and I’m optimistic — as you know, I’m always optimistic — we’ll have a final agreement at some point today,” Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, told reporters Tuesday.
Lawmakers have been nearing a final agreement that would include increasing the minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2016 and — according to Skelos — about $700 million in tax cuts for businesses and families.
But the legislative leaders and Cuomo have also been discussing issues surrounding New York City school funding and possession of marijuana, Silver said. Since the city school district didn’t come to an agreement on a teacher evaluation system this year, it was hit with a $240 million cut in aid from the state — which Silver has been pushing to restore with resistance from Cuomo.
“I’m still trying to make sure of two things: One, they get it restored; and two, even if they don’t get it restored then it stays in the base of operations so increases are based on as if the $240 million were still there,” Silver said.
Meanwhile, a proposal from Cuomo to reduce the penalty for public possession of small amounts of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a violation has entered the budget negotiations as well, Silver said. Cuomo’s plan is meant as a means to deal with New York City’s “stop and frisk” policy, which critics say unfairly targets young minority residents who are forced by police to empty their pockets.
When asked whether a change to the marijuana law would apply to just the city or the entire state, Silver said it’s still being negotiated.
“Marijuana is something that’s being discussed. It’s on the table right now. There’s no definite conclusion, but the stop-and-frisk issue is clearly a New York City issue.”
(AP photo / Mike Groll)