Cuomo, legislators negotiate budget issues

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York’s legislative leaders negotiated over property tax relief, charter schools and prekindergarten funding Monday with a budget deadline looming in a week.

Meanwhile, state parks representatives are urging legislators to restore millions of dollars in funding for park capital projects.

Leaders emerging from closed-door talks at the Capitol said they continued to make progress to get a state budget deal by April 1. But they remained vague about what they were discussing and departed from the usual practice of all parties negotiating face-to-face together. Cuomo met Monday with the Senate’s two leaders before meeting separately with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Senate Republican co-leader Dean Skelos had appeared irritated at Silver when he left negotiations abruptly Friday.

“Sometimes you accomplish more doing it separately,” Silver said. “Last Friday, the senator was agitated about what was discussed. It’s just easier to do that.”

There have been talks over how much money to devote to pre-K, a signature issue for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. There also has been legislative resistance to Cuomo’s property tax relief plan, which would require localities to consolidate or share services for local homeowners to benefit. Cuomo kept up public lobbying for his proposal Monday by announcing more than 225 local officials supported his plan.

Senate co-leader Jeffrey Klein said they were “slowly but surely” moving toward agreements on property tax relief, renter relief and pre-K.

The fate of some other policy provisions remained unclear.

State parks funding

The governor’s budget proposal included $92.5 million in capital funding for state park projects, but the Senate cut the funding.

The Friends of Johnson Hall have circulated a letter by Lucy R. Waletzky, chairwoman of the New York State Council of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, who is calling for restoration of the money.

“Without question, members of the Senate are failing to stand up for the needs of state parks,” Waletzky wrote in the letter.

She said for the past two years, both houses of the Legislature voted to support the parks’ capital improvement program, but this year, the Senate

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“turned their backs on parks, citing a lack of an explicit agency spending plan.”

However, state Sen. Hugh T. Farley, R-Schenectady, said this morning the Senate needs the governor to specify where the money will be spent; otherwise, the funding would be a “blank check” to spend at his discretion.

“The Senate budget is not opposed [to park projects],” Farley said. “This funding is for new capital projects in state parks and isn’t operating money. Unfortunately, the Legislature cannot amend language, so the problem with the governor’s proposal was there is not specificity of where this is going to go or what was going to happen with it.”

“We can’t just give him a blank check to go anywhere he wants or do anything he wants with it,” Farley added. “He could use this money on all kinds of other things.”

“We want to make sure Johnson Hall and everybody else gets some of this,” Farley said. “It should be regionally spread around, and all this is part of the negotiating process.”

“I certainly support keeping that funding in there,”Assemblyman Marc Butler, R-Newport, said. “Tourism is very important to us and I would be in favor of maintaining that support for our parks. It’s not only important as a generator of money for the economy through tourism, but it’s a part of our identity and heritage.”

Leader-Herald reporter Levi Pascher and The Associated Press contributed to this report.