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`Tough Decisions' Ahead For New York's State Budget

ALBANY (WSKG) - The state’s Comptroller is siding with Governor Cuomo over concerns that federal health care cuts will damage New York’s budget, but he says the governor’s budget experts should have saved more money in rainy day funds. Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says Cuomo is right to draw attention to over a billion dollars in potential health care cuts to the state, now that Congress and President Trump have postponed acting on a new federal budget. Congress failed to renew funding for the...

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Updated at 7:18 p.m. ET

Steve Bannon came to the annual Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., on Saturday to detail the holy war he intends to wage against Republicans at the ballot box in next year's midterm elections.

"This is not my war. This is our war. And y'all didn't start it. The establishment started it," President Trump's controversial former chief strategist told the rapt crowd of Christian conservatives. "But I will tell you one thing — you all are going to finish it."

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has decided to expel Harvey Weinstein after the producer was accused of sexually assaulting and harassing at least three dozen women in extensively-reported articles that have appeared in The New York Times and The New Yorker magazine over the past two weeks.

In the wake of an emergency meeting Saturday, the academy's 54-member Board of Governors issued a statement saying:

Updated at 8:30 p.m. ET

Some 9,000 firefighters who are working long hours with little or no rest continue to battle historically destructive Northern California wildfires that have claimed at least 40 lives, wiped out whole neighborhoods and damaged vineyards and farms in the heart of the state's wine country. In this week's fires alone, 22 people have died, the Sonoma County Coroner's office said Saturday.

The reaction has been swift since President Trump announced late Thursday that he was cutting off Affordable Care Act subsidies to insurance companies.

The White House argues that the payments are illegal.

It's not exactly how Deilanis Santana planned to spend her 13th birthday: waking up before dawn, packing up her life – and heading to Connecticut to live with her grandma.

But here she is at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, three weeks after Hurricane Maria, waiting anxiously like many other Puerto Ricans for flights to destinations like Miami, Philadelphia, and other cities. The gates are crowded with children — Deilanis among them — leaving their homes, and sometimes their families, to live in the U.S. mainland and go to school.

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A rally against New York’s newly enacted gun control laws drew one of the largest crowds to the State Capitol in recent decades.

With just three weeks and one day to go before a state budget deadline, Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders met to assess how far they have to go to reach a deal.

In order to meet their self imposed deadline of March 21st to complete a spending plan, Governor Cuomo and lawmakers will have to work through some thorny issues like disagreements over the state’s minimum wage and how to expand casino gambling.

“We have a number of issues on the table that are challenging,” Cuomo said. “It’s going well, but am I concerned? Yes”.

The Broome County Legislature approved a new Office of Energy Development during its meeting on Thursday, though the purpose of the office is not clear.

A leading budget watchdog group is urging rejection of a key component of Governor Cuomo’s budget plan. It would allow cities and schools to put off some payments to their pension funds.

The Governor’s proposal, known as the pension stabilization plan, would allow schools and municipalities to “smooth” out their pension payments over a 25 year period, by paying less now, but more later.

Governor Cuomo made several changes to his budget plan in 30 day amendments . As Karen DeWitt reports, the amendments range from imposing a teacher evaluation plan on New York City, to cutting the cost of hunting licenses.

Cuomo amended his budget to impose a teacher evaluation system on New York City. The Bloomberg Administration and the teacher’s union failed to reach agreement by a January deadline set by Cuomo, and the City stood to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in school aid.

The state’s largest teachers union has filed a lawsuit against the state’s property tax cap, arguing it’s unconstitutional.

New York State United Teachers President Dick Iannuzzi says the cap, passed by Cuomo and the legislature in 2011, arbitrarily limits property tax increase to 2%, regardless of whether a school district is rich or poor. The lawsuit also charges that the tax cap violates the principle of one person one vote, because a supermajority of 60% of voters is required to override the cap.

A group pressing for public campaign financing has compiled a list of large corporations who gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to some New York lawmakers. They charge that the donations are preventing the legislature from closing what they say are corporate tax loopholes.

On Tuesday, New York state officials announced another delay of their final decision on hydrofracking. The Department of Environmental Conservation will wait for a report on the health protections in its environmental review of fracking, then the environmental review can be completed. The delay could be less than a month, or it could be much longer.

A document from Governor Cuomo’s Administration assessing the health impacts of hydro fracking, written several months ago, says the gas drilling process is likely safe if proper precautions are taken by the governor’s environmental agency. 

A February deadline on New York’s process to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing will be missed, with Governor Cuomo’s Health Commissioner now saying he needs more time to complete an ongoing health study.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah said he wants to study potential health impacts from hydrofracking further, and will review some new comprehensive studies on  health and fracking that have been released over the past few weeks.

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