Sen. Klein keeps his spot at the negotiating table

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New York’s key budget negotiations will again be carried out by four men in a room this year.

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Senate Independent Democratic Leader Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, will retain his spot at the negotiating table this year, despite Republicans holding an outright majority in the 63-seat chamber. For the past two years, Klein had served as co-leader of the chamber in a partnership with Republicans, who didn’t have enough votes to control the Senate on their own.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will meet with legislative leaders this afternoon for a negotiating session, and Klein is set to attend.

“I had spoken to Senator Skelos about it, and we both agreed that (Klein) has a group that may be important to pass many of these items because you have a close number of votes in the Senate,” Cuomo said. “He’s been working in partnership with Senator Skelos and he’s still working in partnership with Senator Skelos.”

Klein’s Bronx-based district includes Pelham and part of Eastchester in Westchester County.

The decision to include Klein and not the larger Senate Democratic Conference irked Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, who said the state has to do more to open up budget negotiations. The negotiating process has long been derided as “three men in a room,” though Klein makes four along with Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

“As we discuss ways to clean up Albany and reform state government, a perfect ?place to start is the much maligned three/four men in a room budgetary process,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. “In the past we had been led to believe that membership was based on constitutional roles and not simply the whims of the Governor.”

She continued: “Since membership has now been expanded I would hope all Legislative Conference Leaders will be included, giving all New Yorkers a voice in the budget. The more diversity and light we can shine on this process the better it is for everyone.”

Cuomo said he hasn’t given thought to dramatically changing the budget process.

“I haven’t considered it,” he said. “It’s up to the Legislature who they want to invite, how they want to conduct the process. They will say, as you know, that they have public hearings, they have budget hearings, they have budget discussions, they’re open to the public.”

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