- Associated Press - Thursday, March 26, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Minimum wage increases, spending on schools and a requirement that lawmakers disclose their legal clients hang in the balance as New York lawmakers worked Thursday to finalize a state budget.

Legislators and Gov. Andrew Cuomo aim to come to an agreement before April 1, the start of a new fiscal year.

Ethics and education remain the two biggest points of contention.

In his $142 billion spending recommendation, Cuomo proposed $1.1 billion in additional school spending in exchange for changes to teacher evaluations that would put a greater emphasis on student test performance. Lawmakers want a larger funding increase and many balked at the evaluation changes.

Potential compromises include asking the state Board of Regents - or a newly created commission - to recommend evaluation changes. But lawmakers in both chambers said they won’t agree to a plan that makes their school districts wait for the commission to report back in June before setting school funding.

“It’s a terrible idea,” said Assemblyman Joe Lentol, D-Brooklyn.

Hundreds of teachers protested Cuomo’s reforms Thursday afternoon at the Capitol to keep pressure on the Democratic governor.

On ethics, Cuomo wants lawmakers to be required to disclose their outside income, and he wants lawyers in the Legislature to have to identify big clients. Senate Republicans said they worried about client confidentiality, but on Thursday Republican Senate Leader Dean Skelos of Long Island said he is optimistic a deal can be reached.

Cuomo held firm to his proposals on ethics and education Thursday, writing in a statement that they are “transformative” attempts to address longstanding problems.

“I will not sign a budget without real ethics reform or agree to a dramatic increase in education aid without education reform that provides accountability, performance and standards,” he wrote.

The Senate and Assembly remain at loggerheads when it comes to the minimum wage. Assembly Democrats want to gradually increase it to $15 in the New York City metro area and $12.60 elsewhere by the end of 2018. Cuomo has called for a $10.50 minimum statewide and an $11.50 minimum within the city. The wage is now $8.75 and set to rise to $9 at year’s end.

But Senate Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos remained skeptical.

“Where do they come up with these numbers? It seems like somebody says 10.50, and somebody says 13. And de Blasio says $15. It’s like a bidding war: ‘how high can I go?’” Skelos said. “Without any real thought process to is it going to impact employers, small businesses?”

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