ALBANY, N.Y. (WKBW) — Recovering from the pandemic, sports betting, and marijuana legalization are all part of New York State budget talks. According to Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York faces a $15 billion budget deficit.
“It will be the most difficult budget we have done," Cuomo said.
The budget deadline is less than three weeks away.
Five Western New York Democratic legislators want the Governor to step aside during the AG's office and Assembly impeachment inquiry investigations.
“I came to this conclusion that he should step aside because I am afraid right now," said Assemblymember Bill Conrad (D-Tonawanda). "We're on track right now in the Assembly to issue our one house budget, I know the Senate is as well, but we’re worried that the number of distractions that are going on are causing problems, and we need to act."
Assmeblymember Karen McMahon (D-Amherst) said the Assembly has spent a lot of time discussing topics surrounding Cuomo.
“It’s become quiet a distraction for all of us," McMahon said. "We’ve spent a lot of time as an Assembly majority conference just talking about how to proceed, what do we do with the executive powers, what do we do about impeachment."
Managing Partner at O'Donnell and Associates Jack O'Donnell said lawmakers need to be able to work together, particularly on major policy issues.
“This has to have a huge impact on the budget,” O'Donnell said.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, a key budget negotiator, is one of more than 60 Democratic lawmakers calling for the Governor to resign.
“If the Governor, and Carl Heastie, and Andrea Stewart-Cousins can’t talk at length about these issues it makes it really hard to get it done,” O'Donnell said.
O'Donnell said one of those issues is where revenue from legal marijuana would go. He said the legislature has been more vocal than the Governor has about money being allocated to communities disproportionately affected by marijuana arrests.
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes' office tells 7 Eyewitness News it is possible for marijuana legalization to happen outside of the budget, and is one of the many negotiation options being discussed.
O'Donnell said this would not have been on the table three months ago.
Do lawmakers believe there is more negotiating power now on issues Cuomo may not agree with?
"You know it's hard to say how it will all play out," McMahon said. "I think it definitely puts him in a little different negotiating position you know, but he is a master politician and so far he has resisted calls to resign or step aside even temporarily."
Cuomo denies sexual harassment allegations and said he will not resign. Cuomo said he is focused on doing his job.
“I don’t think there’s a person in a better position to help the state get through this period than the experience that I bring to it,” Cuomo said.
O'Donnell expects the budget will be passed around deadline.
“I think it's really important for the Governor under fire to show that he’s doing his job, and so I do think everyone will get together and we’ll have a basically on time budget,” O'Donnell said.
McMahon said the impeachment investigation will likely last longer than the time it will take to pass the budget.