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NY Senate Majority Leader pleased with budget process

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By Joyce Kryszak

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-960654.mp3

Albany, NY – Late last night state lawmakers put the wraps on the 2011 state budget. Wednesday afternoon on the Capital Pressroom, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos gave his impressions of the budget process and the end product.

The budget votes came amidst heavy demonstrations surrounding the capital. Hundreds of people showed up to protest drastic cuts in everything from education aid to healthcare.

The Alliance for Quality Education was one of the loudest advocacy groups that descended on the capital. Locally, many schools are putting forward budgets that include tax hikes and dramatic cuts to staffing and programming.

But Skelos said there are better days down the road.

"Under the governor's two-year proposal for aid to education there will be an eight million dollar increase next year, at a minimum," said Skelos. "Next year there will continue to be tough choices but we can start turning around assisting school districts and other municipalities."

There are still many loose ends for this year.

Among them, which prisons ultimately will be closed, and when UB 2020 will be reconsidered. The Republican Majority Leader said he trusts the Governor to be fair in these matters.

Skelos said, overall, he is pleased with the budget process. He said it is not surprising to him that there was far less debate than in past years.

"Bottom line is that everybody recognized there is no money. The state has a ten billion dollar deficit," said Skelos. "So, actually you see more arguing when there's money to spend. As of right now everybody recognized you have to bring the state's fiscal house in order."

Skelos said the focus for most lawmakers - Republican and Democrat alike - has been finding ways to improve the state's economy and help create jobs.

But critics charge that lawmakers merely pandered to the interests of the wealthiest in the state at the expense of the rest of New Yorkers.