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March 23, 2011

Cuomo, legislative leaders finishing NY budget

ALBANY — New York's hard-times budget is facing what negotiators promise are its final days as a proposal as pressure escalates to restore some school aid cuts and upstate prison closings become a top issue.

Senate Deputy Majority Leader Thomas Libous said this week that his Republican conference wants to know which prisons would be closed under Gov. Andrew Cuomo's cost-cutting plan, which seeks to take advantage of declining prison populations. Libous, of Broome and Chenango counties, said last year's prison closings unfairly hit upstate hardest, with little compensation for communities that lost their biggest employer.

Cuomo, a Democrat, said he's considering the Legislature's proposed restorations to his 2011-12 budget.

"It's all on the table," he told reporters Tuesday.

His budget would cut spending 2.7 percent to address a $10 billion deficit and what he said is years of overspending. But he has the power to impose his budget if lawmakers fail to agree on one by the April 1 start of the fiscal year, a tool discovered in state law by former Gov. David Paterson who used it last year.

Cuomo repeated that he won't hesitate to impose his budget on the April 1 deadline if talks with the Senate and Assembly leaders turn unproductive.

Lawmakers say they hope to have an agreement among the Senate, Assembly and Cuomo on or before the weekend, so a budget could be passed on time as early as Monday or Tuesday.

"There's a new option if the three parties agree to disagree, in a very dramatic fashion," Cuomo said of his power to impose his budget.

Cuomo could start sending the Legislature emergency budget "extenders" containing his budget cuts and other proposals, leaving lawmakers with the choice of either approving them or shutting down government.

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