It appears the New York State budget will be delivered on time for the third year in a row – a noteworthy accomplishment rising out of Albany’s dysfunction. But, in getting it done, legislators have postponed decision-making on some of the more controversial topics, including an amendment on the expansion of casino gambling that could see one established in Coney Island.
City & State reports:
“I have concern with working toward an on-time budget,” Cuomo said. “We’ve had two on-time budgets. This would be the third on-time budget since about 1984. We have a number of issues on the table that are challenging, that are controversial, so we’re working very hard, and it’s going well, but am I concerned? Yes.”
New York State has a $1.6 billion gap in its $135 billion budget for 2013–14. That amount is far smaller than the $10 billion deficit Cuomo had to tackle in his first year in office, but several thorny policy and spending issues remain.
One of the most pressing issues to complete the budget early, as Cuomo and legislative leaders would like, is finding cuts to healthcare spending after the federal government reduces Medicaid payments to the state this year, as well as finding additional funds to send to the New York City school system if teachers win a reversal of a $240 million budget slash resulting from the failed teacher evaluation talks.
As legislators and the governor mull these issues, they’ve been forced to table some of the governor’s ambitious goals until later in the legislative season, including an expansion of legalized gambling, an increase in minimum wage and immigration reform.
The Assembly is full steam ahead on minimum wage – already passing a bill increasing it to $9.00, but Senate Republicans who share leadership in that house are opposed to it.
Concerns about casinos, though, are more bipartisan, with many legislators demanding that any casino legislation moving forward include locations in the language, something Cuomo is against.
According to the Daily News, the timing of casino rollouts is also in question. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver wants not only siting language included, but a provision to spread out the timetable for casino development. The first phase of casino expansion as outlined by Governor Cuomo would see three casinos established upstate, and Silver wants a waiting period of up to five years before a second round of casinos is launched.
“That way, the governor next year doesn’t say, ‘We need a billion dollars, that’s what someone would bid for a Manhattan casino, let’s do one there,’ ” Silver told the Daily News.
“It would also enhance the value of the (first) three, if you give them exclusivity for five years or some period of time,” he added. “It would make the bidding of the three more valuable (for the state) as well, if [potential operators] know they only have two others to compete with and not one in New York City.”
Silver’s Republican counterpart in the Senate, Dean Skelos, said he wants to keep all options on the table.
Daily News is also reporting that the tide is beginning to turn in both houses, as casino lobbyists up their game.
The industry “is starting to put real pressure and offer up big donations to legislators who would go the other way and support a New York City casino,” the source said. “That’s why you’re starting to see a shift in the Legislature.”
The constitutional amendment would only authorize a number of casinos to be permitted. Separate legislation would be needed to spell out the details.
Silver said lawmakers want a say in what regions are eligible for casinos, but that they do not want to get involved in the bidding process, or where specifically a casino would be located within an agreed-upon region.
The budget is due March 31, making resolution of these thornier issues unlikely until later in the legislative session, which ends in June.