Lawmakers, Cuomo May Have a Long Budget Weekend

7:21 PM, Mar 20, 2013   |    comments
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By Joseph Spector and Jon Campbell
Albany Bureau

ALBANY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, told reporters Wednesday that finalizing the state budget may carry into the weekend as Gov. Andrew Cuomo seek to reach compromise on a variety of issues.

"I think you're probably looking at Saturday and Sunday at best," Silver said after an hourlong meeting with Cuomo and legislative leaders behind closed doors.

What initially appeared like straightforward budget talks has morphed into a series of issues unrelated to the state's $136 billion budget proposed by Cuomo on Jan 22.

They are discussing providing $350 rebate checks to families, decriminalizing a small amount of marijuana in New York City, extending higher income taxes on millionaires, changing the gun-control law passed last month and increasing the minimum wage.

"The governor put them out," Silver said, "and those issues are important to various segments of the state, various members of our conferences and it's important and it's important to do it as part of the budget.

Sen. Jeff Klein, who heads the Independent Democratic Conference, said he was hopeful a deal could be reached shortly.

"There's a lot of things on the table still," he said.

Silver said that changes to the NY-SAFE Act, the tougher gun-control law pushed by Cuomo in January, are focused on the number of bullets in a magazine. Starting April 15, the law would prevent people from carrying more than seven bullets in a magazine, down from the current limit of 10.

But the law may need to be modified because manufacturers do not make seven-round magazines, and the law allows for 10-bullet magazines on shooting ranges -- but not in people's homes.

Silver said there are no plans to postpone the start date for the magazine provision past April 15, and they are focused on making changes in the budget.

The budget proposal calls for increasing the minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2016.

Silver dismissed criticism that the minimum-wage increase will be phased in over three years. Assembly Democrats passed a bill earlier this month to increase it to $9 an hour in January.

"I think that anybody who looks at the end result of $9 in two years, I think you got to call it a success," Silver said. "We're doing a tremendous amount for minimum-wage workers."

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