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Governor Cuomo: Lawmakers can't leave town until job done

New York Governor Cuomo presents his 2011-12 budget proposal in Albany
New York Governor Cuomo presents his 2011-12 budget proposal in Albany

By Dan Wiessner

ALBANY, New York (Reuters) - New York State lawmakers are scheduled to break for a summer recess next week, but they are not going anywhere if the state's rent stabilization laws are not renewed, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday.

The list of New York's unresolved issues includes gay marriage and a tax cap on property taxes, which has become linked to the rent regulations. The rent rules cover more than one million New Yorkers and expire at midnight on Wednesday.

The Democratic governor, who closed a multibillion-dollar state budget deficit without tax hikes, is also still negotiating with public sector unions, having offered them the choice of 9,800 layoffs or $450 million in concessions.

Cuomo and Democratic lawmakers have made the expansion of the rent laws a top priority, but have been blocked by the state Senate's Republican majority, which favors a simple extension of the current laws.

In a statement, Cuomo said if no agreement is reached on the rent laws by Monday, the last day of the legislative session, he will continually call lawmakers into "special sessions" and try to force a deal.

"If the laws are not renewed, over the long term there would be nothing less than a housing crisis in the state," Cuomo said, adding "the legislative session will not end, either through regular or special session, until the people's business is done."

The state's rent laws expired for a few days in 1997. Absent a deal, Cuomo said, lawmakers could pass a short-term extension of the current laws. Insiders at the Capitol said such an extension would likely expire on Monday.

"The governor assured us rent is his number one priority and no one is leaving here without rent control being expanded," said one Senate Democrat who met with the governor on Tuesday.

The rent laws have been tied to a proposed cap on annual property tax increases, which is another top priority for Cuomo and Senate Republicans.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, said last month he would only support a property tax cap that expires at the same time as new rent rules. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, has balked at the so-called "sunset" provision.

In a television interview Tuesday, Silver called the Republican proposals "non-starters."

"It's ultimately up to the governor, who supports our position on rent, to let the Senate know unequivocally that he intends to sit and negotiate a three-way bill with them," he said, referring to the governor and the state's two legislative chambers.

A spokesman for Skelos was not immediately available to comment.

(Additional writing by Joan Gralla)

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