Lawmakers: Lawsuit Last Resort But Still Option in State Budget Debate

It's now been nearly two weeks since Governor Cuomo issued his 30-day budget amendments. Neither the Senate nor Assembly have acted on them just yet, with rumors of legal action challenging the executive's budgetary powers. But lawmakers say they're pursuing other options first. Nick Reisman reports.

ALBANY, N.Y. -- State lawmakers in Albany are grumbling over Governor Andrew Cuomo's hardball approach to the ethics this year. The governor is tying the measures to spending in the state budget -- a move that tests the limits of the governor's legal authority. 

"We're arguing it through and that's good and productive," Cuomo said.

Lawmakers are yet to introduce the governor's amended changes to the budget, an unusal move during the budget season. It's raised questions as to whether Cuomo will be sued by lawmakers over his tactics. 

"I'm wagering there won't be any lawsuit. That's part of the heated rhetoric we're having now and we will reconcile and we will compromise and we will move forward," said Cuomo.

Rank and file Republican lawmakers on Wednesday called a lawsuit over Cuomo's tying of ethics to spending a last resort, but would not rule it out.  

"A legal challenge should be the last resort for anything," said Sen. John Flanagan, R - East Northport.

But Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos emerged from private meeting with the governor to say a legal challenge likely won't occur. 

"I don't believe there's lawsuits that are necessary. We're going through the 30-day amendments, they're very complicated and the Legislature. I know the Senate, the speaker, the coalition, we're all looking at it," said Dean Skelos, R - Senate Majority Leader.

But for now, not introducing the amendments gives Senate Republicans leverage in the budget negotiations since the chamber cannot pass measures that have not been introduced. 

"We talked about a result. We didn't talk about introducing and not introducing," said Skelos.

And even as Cuomo talks of compromise, his lieutenant governor Kathy Hochul is taking a harder line with the GOP conference. 

"They have a responsibility to introduce the amendments. We expect it will happen in a timely fashion. We believe the people of the state of New York deserve an on-time budget and that's what we're working toward and we hope the people of the state of New York understand," said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, D - New York.

The budget is due by April 1. If approved before the deadline, it would be the fifth on-time budget in a row. 

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