New York Lawmakers OK First on-Time Budget in Five Years

It wasn't pretty, but New York lawmakers handed Governor Andrew Cuomo a resounding political victory by approving the first on-time state budget in five years early Thursday morning (March 31).

Budget deliberations stretched to 1 a.m. as hundreds of protesters jammed into the capitol to complain about severe cuts contained in the $132.5 billion deal, according to The New York Times . They draped banners over staircases and banged on legislators' doors to make their presence felt, the paper reported.

"Legislators appeared on edge," according to The Times' account. "At times, a state trooper armed with a Taser stood guard near the Senate lobby. The Assembly closed its gallery because it did not have enough people to handle crowd control. One protester was arrested for reportedly hitting a legislative staffer in the head with a cymbal."

The spending plan avoids borrowing and achieves Cuomo's goal of closing a huge shortfall without raising taxes, despite many protesters' demands that a tax surcharge on wealthy residents be included. It sharply cuts state funding for public schools and health care.

"If someone had suggested just a few months ago that you would get a budget on time, cut taxes, no new borrowing, get bipartisan support from all over the state, you would have thought it some sort of fantasy. But here we are," one state representative told The Times Union of Albany .

Unlike most states, New York's new fiscal year begins April 1. Passage of the budget on time is notable because of the Legislature's notorious partisan stalemates, which last year delayed a budget deal until August, as The Times Union noted.

"An on-time budget, my colleagues, is important because it gives New Yorkers a reason to begin to trust," the Senate Democratic leader, John Sampson, said during the voting.

As Stateline reported earlier this week, another big, fiscally troubled state — California — is having far less success approving a budget. California, however, does have the benefit of time, since its new fiscal year begins July 1.

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