ALBANY – Both houses of the New York State Legislature have each passed their individual budget resolutions.
On Monday, members of the Republican controlled State Senate and the Democratic controlled State Assembly approved their spending bills for fiscal year 2016, which begins on April 1. Total spending in the budget is expected to exceed $150 billion.
The Senate version of the budget focuses on tax cuts and spending caps while the Assembly version is dominated by more spending on housing, education and child care, among other issues.
It’s now up to the leaders of the two sides to meet with Governor Andrew Cuomo to negotiate and reconcile a final spending bill. The process, referred to as “three men in a room” has been criticized for its lack of transparency in how the final budget is hashed out.
However, Senator Cathy Young (R,C, I – Olean), who represents Chautauqua County and serves as chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, says the process is not as secretive as some would imagine.
“The majority leader in the senate is charged by the members of the senate to negotiate on our behalf,” Young explained to WRFA during her visit to Jamestown on March 10. “So it’s not like he’s in there, on his own, cutting some secret deal. And when he has a meeting – after he meets with the governor and the assembly leader – he comes back and reports and then maybe we tell him that we want him to go in some other direction, or why don’t you add to this. So from my perspective, it’s very member driving, it’s not ‘three men in a room.’ I think that is a misnomer.”
Not everyone in the state legislature agrees with Young about the process. Senate minority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) has said the process excludes her Democratic senate colleagues, and also said that if anything it has only gotten worse, with the three-men-in-a-room process seeming to be replaced by a more secretive format of covert meetings and phone calls shielded from the press and public.
Young does admit that the biggest challenge in the negotiation process will be ensuring that the interests of all residents of New York State are being given equal representation, which she admits isn’t always the case, especially when Democrats controlled both legislative houses.
“That is always a big battle in Albany because there is always this up state divide,” Young said. “When you have state government out of balance, and all the power and influence coming from New York City, you see that result.”
Besides the governor, the two others involved in the negotiation process will be Assembly speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and Senate majority leader John Flanagan (R-Long Island).