- Associated Press - Monday, March 28, 2016

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York state lawmakers worked toward closing a deal on a new state budget Monday, with a key deadline looming and the fate of proposals to raise the minimum wage and establish a paid family leave program hanging in the balance.

Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters that while the talks were advancing, several issues remained, including how New York City will make out in the spending plan. That includes its payments to Medicaid. The Cuomo administration proposed making the city pay for its own annual growth in Medicaid costs.

“Paid family leave and minimum wage are absolutely parts of the discussion on the final budget,” Heastie said after briefing his chamber’s Democratic majority behind closed doors on Monday afternoon. “Albany is the art of the compromise and we’ll see what happens at the end of the day.”

State aid to schools also was still an open topic in talks with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Senate’s Republican leaders, Heastie said.

Assemblyman Peter Lopez of Schoharie, excluded from the briefing like the Assembly’s other minority Republicans, said the same feudal system has remained in place in the Legislature despite recent leadership changes and promises of openness. “Leaders want to hold onto absolute power,” he said.

Cuomo’s top priority is a plan that would gradually raise the state’s $9 minimum wage to $15, by the end of 2018 in New York City and by 2021 elsewhere in the state. As a compromise, Republicans have suggested a slower phase-in to a lower figure, perhaps $12 or $13, in upstate areas. Other ideas include exemptions for agriculture or small businesses.

“As far as the minimum wage goes, everything is on the table,” said Sen. Rich Funke, a Monroe County Republican, following a closed-door meeting of the Senate’s Republican majority.

Heastie said he was unsure whether lawmakers would meet their midnight deadline to print budget bills and may need a special message from Cuomo to skip the usual three-day waiting period and vote for the budget on time.

Workers and other supporters of Cuomo’s minimum wage hike stood in the halls of the Capitol Monday for what they hoped would be a 24-hour vigil. They had to share space with AIDS activists who also planned to risk arrest by staying in the Capitol overnight to push for $70 million in the budget for a state plan to reduce new HIV infections.

The new fiscal year starts Friday.

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