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Talks stall on state budget deal as Monday deadline nears

With the clock ticking toward midnight on Friday, a final deal on the state’s budget remained elusive.

Sources said that there won’t be a formal agreement on the 2014-2015 spending plan tonight, meaning that the state could see its first late budget in four years. New York is required to place budget documents on lawmakers’ desks at least three days before a vote can be taken to enact the plan into law, a period that must begin today to beat a March 31 deadline.

An alternative is that Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has said that late budgets are an example of Albany’s dysfunction, could use what’s called a “message of necessity”. The move would waive the review period and allow for a vote to take place on Monday, ensuring that there is an on-time budget — at least from a legal standpoint.

But it would also underscore the uncertainty that has surrounded this year’s closed-door budget talks, which come in an election year. The delay comes after legislative leaders have publicly insisted this week that negotiations were going smoothly.

Much of the fuzziness has had to do with education issues pertaining to New York City.

One broad sticking point has been tension over what the city was getting in the deal versus everywhere else. The city was seen as receiving a disproportionate amount of funding for charter schools and pre-kindergarten, which stoked resentment from lawmakers who believed that their districts were being neglected.

Though an annual source of conflict, push back against the city has been especially intense this year. Securing extra money from the state for pre-K and after school programs was Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature initiative after taking office in January, while charter schools sought Albany’s help to secure facilities funding after being challenged by de Blasio’s campaign pledges to curtail their growth.

Both became statewide issues, but the city appears to have come out in better shape in each case. The city would receive as much as $300 million in pre-K funds, compared to just $40 million for the rest of the state, and only city charter schools would receive facilities support, according to tentative deals reported this week.

Feeling neglected, lawmakers outside of the city have insisted that they larger sums of state aid for their school districts, which have taken funding hits in recent years because of the economic downturn.

It’s unclear if legislative leaders are still negotiating over state aid, but it’s unlikely that the entire education section of the state budget bill could be printed out for nearly 200 lawmakers before midnight.