- Associated Press - Thursday, March 20, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Gov. Andrew Cuomo continued to tout his property tax freeze as a priority in budget negotiations Thursday but said he is getting resistance from lawmakers.

Cuomo said lawmakers are feeling pressure to oppose the property tax freeze that connects rebates for homeowners to local governments cutting expenses and sharing services. But Cuomo said spending is “the enemy of lowering taxes. So my priority is to push for a tax cut.”

Also Thursday, the Senate and Assembly announced they plan to add another $500 million to the governor’s budget proposal, with almost half going to education. The spending levels are subject to change during closed-door budget negotiations, but a two-house agreement is a sign of progress toward a deal.

Cuomo and legislative leaders met in the governor’s offices Thursday as hundreds of demonstrators clogged the spacious halls of the Capitol to protest Cuomo’s proposed corporate tax cuts and school funding levels. One sign read: “Stop $2 billion more uber-rich tax cuts.” About 60 protesters were arrested.

Legislative leaders said Thursday afternoon they were making progress toward an on-time budget, but offered no specifics on any emerging deals. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver described the process as a series of compromises.

“As long as there are no lines in the sand, we’re more likely to succeed,” he told reporters.

The leaders are meetings more frequently as the April 1 deadline for the roughly $140 billion fiscal spending plan comes closer.

Activists are also rallying for the Dream Act, a bill that narrowly failed Monday which would have allowed students in the country illegally to get state financial aid for higher education.

On Wednesday night, Silver emerged from a closed door meeting with Cuomo and legislative leaders saying the Dream Act “is on the table.” But on Thursday, the Senate’s Democratic co-leader, Sen. Jeff Klein, said that the Dream Act has not been discussed in closed-door negotiations.

Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Sen. Jose Peralta, sponsor of the bill, sent a letter to Cuomo to include the measure in the budget, which would give it a better chance of passage.

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