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State lawmakers begin budget votes, though some bills remain under discussion

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WBFO file photo
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State lawmakers are slowly moving forward toward passage of a spending plan for the fiscal year that began April 1. But several bills subject to further negotiation were making it unlikely that the budget would be passed on Wednesday.

The state Assembly began voting on the first of several budget bills Wednesday, following the first votes in the Senate a day earlier.

The pace has slowed as lawmakers await the details of school funding increases and a Democratic proposal to end the state's practice of automatically prosecuting and incarcerating 16- and 17-year-old offenders in adult court.

As of Wednesday afternoon it appeared unlikely the Legislature could give final approval to the $152 billion budget before Thursday at the earliest.

"There are additional budget bills which are still subject to negotiation with the governor and those may take longer to get done," said Assemblyman Robin Schimminger to WBFO.

The spending plan is also expected to include increased college tuition assistance, $2.5 billion for upgrades to the state's water infrastructure and the expansion of ride-hailing services upstate.

Local lawmakers have been clamoring for ride-hailing outside of New York City. Schimminger is among those who will vote in favor, if it becomes part of the budget bills.

"The extender which the governor sent up a couple of days back, and which we are living under until the end of May, did not contain ride-hailing," Schimminger said. "Ideally, that will be resolved as part of these negotiations. Stay tuned."

State Senator Chris Jacobs wouldn't set a timetable for final approval of the budget but did tell WBFO that lawmakers share a desire to get it done as soon as possible. Prior to continuing budget negotiations, Wednesday was the Legislature's last scheduled session before a two-and-a-half week break that includes the Easter and Passover holidays.

State Senator Chris Jacobs wouldn't set a timetable for final approval of the budget but did tell WBFO that lawmakers share a desire to get it done as soon as possible. Prior to continuing budget negotiations, Wednesday was the Legislature's last scheduled session before a two-and-a-half week break that includes the Easter and Passover holidays.

Local lawmakers hailed agreements on some provisions that they said will benefit Western New York interests, from a school district to a local waterway. Jacobs announced that he and fellow Senator Patrick Gallivan were able to restore $500,000 for the Facilitated Enrollment Child Care Program in Erie County. It's a program, Jacobs explained, that allows low- to moderate-income working parents attain affordable child care.

"Assemblyman Sean Ryan and I have been able to get an earmark of a million dollars for our continued work to restore the Scajaquada Creek, which has some major toxic problems," Jacobs added.

Also celebrated was approval of a plan in both houses to increase mitigation funding to the Town of Tonawanda and Ken-Ton School District, both of which lost significant revenue streams upon the shutdown of the Huntley coal-burning energy plant. 

Schimminger explained that the agreement creates a more "generous" payment schedule, providing an additional $5.4 million over the next seven years. Ken-Ton Schools will receive a total $2.7 million more than it is getting through the current state mitigation plan.

"The school district was the largest beneficiary of tax payments from the Huntley facility," Schimminger said. "There were roughly six million dollars paid each year by the Huntley plant."

The Town of Tonawanda will receive an additional $1.8 million under the updated mitigation plan while Erie County will get $1 million in increased funds.

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