By Joseph Spector
Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY, NY-- Legislative leaders said Thursday they were working toward an early budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which starts April 1.
The leaders said they were moving to have the budget approved by next Thursday, March 21, before a spring recess.
Lawmakers announced on Thursday that $550 million in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's $136 billion budget proposal would be redirected, including $200 million in additional tax revenue that the sides agreed to earlier this month.
The largest change would be $290 million in aid for schools, part of $21 billion expected to be distributed to the roughly 700 districts in the state.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, said the additional $290 million comes from various sources in the budget, including funds from competitive education grants that weren't awarded last year.
It was too early to say how much aid was headed to each school district or how other state funding would be dispersed, Silver said. Another $70 million was expected to be spent on higher education.
"It's part of the discussion that's ongoing," Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, told reporters Thursday. "But right now this is an addition to aid to education that will be balanced fairly around the state."
Assembly Education Committee chairwoman Catherine Nolan, D-Queens, said the poorest schools should be prioritized.
"The neediest children in our state, who so often get the least, need to be at the forefront of our discussions," she said at a budget hearing Thursday. "Whether they live in the city, the suburbs, the North Country or western New York -- we need to be mindful of that."
The leaders said they had not decided whether thorny issues, such as increasing the minimum wage, would be part of the budget.
Democrats want to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour. Republicans, however, haven't indicated whether they would support the increase.
"There is no resolution on anything at this point," Silver said Thursday after meeting with Cuomo and other leaders behind closed doors at the Capitol.
Lawmakers were working quickly to reach agreement. Budget subcommittees were meeting throughout the day to determine how the $550 million would be spent.
The goal, legislative leaders said, was to have a deal done by Monday. That would allow budget bills to age three days before they could be approved, avoiding the need for a message of necessity from Cuomo.
Cuomo was criticized in January for issuing a message of necessity to approve the state's new controversial gun-control law.