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Lawmakers return to Albany for busy session

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Buffalo: Lawmakers return to Albany for busy session
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State lawmakers returned to Albany this week with a full slate of items on their plate, including the budget and an agreement on minimum wage. Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman has more on how they plan to address their to do list.

ALBANY, N.Y. -- With lawmakers back in Albany after a week-and-a-half vacation, Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders met privately to begin the final push for not just an on time, but also early, budget. But hurdles remain, including approving a minimum wage hike and determining where casinos are built

“Minimum wage, I've said you could do in the budget and we're trying to do in the budget and we're working very hard to do in the budget, but you could also do that later in the session,” Cuomo said. “Casinos you could certainly do in the budget or later in the session.”

Cuomo met behind closed doors with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate leaders Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein to discuss the $142.6 billion budget proposal. Though tight lipped on the details of the meeting, lawmakers said no deals had been reached on the major issues.

When it comes to placing casinos, lawmakers and Cuomo disagree on who should have the power to pick a location: The Legislature or Cuomo's own gaming commission.

“The only thing we have an agreement on right now is that the commission will pick the vendors. We have to see who has a say in the siting, whether or not we do all seven in the amendment, but that all has to be discussed,” Klein said.

Democrats, meanwhile, continue to push for a $9 minimum wage and tie future increases to inflation. Cuomo backs an $8.75 minimum wage, but Senate Republicans would likely need a business tax cut to go along with the measure. They support ending a surcharge on utility assessments, but insist there's no tying of the wage hike to the tax cut.

Skelos said, “I'm not looking to tie anything together. We still haven’t made a decision as to whether expanding the minimum wage is doing to be counterproductive to job creation.”

Meanwhile, Democrats in the State Assembly released their revenue forecast, saying there's an extra $484 million available in the budget. They would like to use that money to restore previous spending cuts.

Silver said, “It's not about member items or bullet aid. It's about substantive issues, such as mental health and in the area of mental health, not to be exclusive, but it's something we felt we could use more money for.”

The Senate has yet to release its revenue forecast.

One budget issue that won't be changing is Cuomo's pension smoothing proposal that has come under fire from his own Democratic Party co-chair, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner.

“It's an option,” Cuomo said. “If they don't want to take it, they take it. It brings down for many cities the cost in the next few years.”

The budget is due April 1st, but lawmakers believe they can pass it by March 21st so lawmakers can get out of town to observe the Passover and Easter holidays.

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