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With deadlock over, lawmakers poised to approve NYS budget

Upstate Uber, increased tuition assistance and more money for schools are just a few of the items in the new state budget poised for passage in the New York Legislature. The State Senate began debate over the $152 billion spending plan late Tuesday night after lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo resolved a stalemate that forced them to blow past a Saturday budget deadline.

The Senate planned to return to wrap up their voting Wednesday, when the Assembly also planned to take up the budget.

"We want to get it done," said Republican Sen. John DeFrancisco of Syracuse.

The budget legislation keeps taxes flat, increases public education spending by $1 million, raises college tuition assistance and invests $2.5 billion in upgrades for the state's aging water infrastructure.

It also would allow Uber and Lyft to expand into upstate cities like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany. The two app-based ride-hailing services are now limited to the New York City area.

"Ride sharing, that has been agreed upon by the Senate and the Assembly and the Governo, so that's a three-way agreement," said Assemblymember Michael Kearns (D-Buffalo). "WE wil have ride sharing sometime after this summer."

Another provision, a priority for Democrats, would end the state's distinction as one of only two states that automatically prosecute and incarcerate 16- and 17-year-old offenders as adults. Lawmakers in North Carolina, the other state, also are considering legislation to raise the age.

The budget was due by Saturday, when the state began a new fiscal year. But it was delayed by disagreement over the juvenile justice reform piece, as well as education funding and an affordable housing tax credit for New York City developers.

To avert a government shutdown, lawmakers and Cuomo approved a two-month extension of the last budget on Monday. But under state law, legislative pay will be withheld until lawmakers approve a full budget, and lawmakers were eager to get back to complete their work.

"You're at the point where you might not get everything that you want," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx. "I'm not going to allow the Assembly to get blamed for there not being a budget."

As late as Tuesday afternoon, Cuomo said there was no final deal on the budget. The late negotiations meant that full details of the spending package weren't available as the votes began, forcing the public and even lawmakers to rely on promises of legislative leaders.

"This is not a rational way to do these things," said Democratic Sen. Daniel Squadron of Brooklyn. "It's a wacky process."

Cuomo introduced his $152 billion budget proposal in January. It keeps the status quo when it comes to taxes, adds $1 billion in new public education spending and includes expanded child care tax credits and a new $163 million initiative making state college tuition free for students from families earning $125,000 or less annually.

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