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New York state senate pushes ahead with budget votes

By Cheryl Clark

ALBANY, NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York state's senate made a start on ratifying the state's budget in a session on Sunday afternoon even as the assembly said it would remain shuttered until Thursday in what may turn into to a race to beat the end-of-month deadline.

The budget looked like it would be the earliest since 1976 in a state known for regularly missing deadlines. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo inked a deal with legislative leaders late on Wednesday after days of closed-door meetings.

Cuomo had wanted the budget to be clinched this weekend ahead of the Passover and Easter holidays this week but last minute wrangling and rules that stipulate bills need to age for three days once they are printed are slowing down the process.

The budget needs to be passed by both houses before the start of the state's fiscal year on April 1.

Speaking to reporters outside the Republican conference room in the state Capitol in Albany, senate Republican Conference Leader Dean Skelos said he and Senator Jeff Klein decided to spend Sunday evening and the rest of the week passing budget bills even if Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver does not call his members back into session until Thursday morning.

Skelos, a Republican, and Klein, a Democrat, lead a power-sharing arrangement in the senate.

"We believe this budget could have been finished a week ago, but for some reason issues that were closed were reopened," Skelos said. "Now it's up to the Speaker to make a determination as to whether he wants an on-time budget or he doesn't want an on-time budget."

Skelos said he expects all remaining budget bills to be printed on Sunday night in order to be available for voting on Wednesday. Cuomo could make an exception to the three-day rule but senate minority spokesman Michael Murphy said "all indications are that Cuomo won't" make that exception.

During the three-hour session that began at 3 p.m. with an hour of closed-door meetings senators passed budget bills on public protection and a bill that implements the transportation, economic development and environmental conservation budget.

The senate is planning to reconvene at 11 a.m. on Monday.

(Reporting By Edward Krudy; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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