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NY pushes to settle budget early; proposals Eemerge

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The state Legislature is calling for more spending, tax cuts, a higher minimum wage and even a rollback of a new gun control law in their budget counter-proposals released Monday.

But Gov. Andrew Cuomo said money is tight. He also said legislative proposals are often used for political posturing and many have few prospects of changing the budget. Cuomo and legislative leaders planned to meet throughout the week in the hope of getting a solid budget framework in place by Friday to hit the March 21 target to pass one of the earliest budgets in decades.

The Senate proposal would restore STAR rebate checks that briefly sent hundreds of dollars in school tax relief to households statewide during Gov. George Pataki’s administration. That would be among the $2 billion in tax cuts and credits proposed by the Senate Republicans who share power of the chamber with the Independent Democratic Conference.

Senate Republicans also proposed a cut in the funding necessary for Cuomo’s gun control law, passed by both chambers in a bipartisan vote a month after the Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre. Since that bill was rushed into law without public hearings, however, a vocal minority of upstate residents who live in mostly Republican districts have sought to repeal all or part of the measure.

Cuomo said that if the Legislature approves a bill, it should also approve the funding needed to implement it.

Later, Sen. Jeffrey Klein of the Independent Democratic Conference said the coalition isn’t trying to cut funding but to “modify” it. He said he wants to expand a database of gun owners to include people convicted of gun crimes.

The Assembly’s Democratic majority seeks to insert $25 million into Cuomo’s $143 billion budget proposal to pay for a New York Dream Act. The act would help children and teenagers who are illegal immigrants secure college financial aid through the state Tuition Assistance Program.

The Assembly and Senate include proposals for raising the minimum wage, but the proposals differ and many lawmakers expect any action on that will be postponed until the budget is passed.

After Monday’s closed-door negotiations, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver wouldn’t say whether he was encouraged that the Senate included a minimum wage increase in its package, though without specific dollar amounts.

“It hasn’t really come up,” Silver said. He sponsors a bill to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9.

Klein, of the Senate IDC, however, insisted he and his Republican colleagues are pushing to include some increase in the minimum wage in the budget.

“Minimum wage workers can’t wait,” Klein said. “We need to do it now.”

“The minimum wage `proposal’ in the Republican/IDC budget resolution is not real,” said Mike Murphy, spokesman for the traditional Senate Democratic conference. “The fact is the Senate Democratic Conference has 27 votes ready to support legislation increasing the state’s minimum wage to $9 and indexing it to the rate of inflation.” The coalition includes six Democrats, who could muster the 32 votes needed to pass legislation in the Senate.

Cuomo’s proposal to authorize three more casinos upstate is also expected to be postponed until after the budget.

The budget is due by April 1. Cuomo’s proposal would increase spending by 2 percent and address a $1 billion deficit. It includes no new taxes, though he seeks to extend some taxes that were due to expire and annual increases in public college tuition continue under an earlier deal.

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