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Stewart-Cousins Wants Spot In Budget Talks

Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins

Pressure is mounting to include New York State Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the only female legislative leader, in the closed door budget meetings with Governor Andrew Cuomo that now consist of four men in a room.

The Black, Hispanic and Asian Caucus issued a statement saying it’s “unacceptable” to leave the Senator, who is African-American, out, and Senator Stewart Cousins spoke up at a public summit meeting for all of the legislative leaders, known as the Mothership budget committee, saying the process is “greatly flawed.”

“Apparently the Mothership is the only place that this mother will appear negotiating the budget,” Stewart-Cousins said.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos says he has no problems with the Democratic Leader being included.  Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who like Senator Stewart-Cousins is African-American, says he has no objection, but it’s not up to him.

“The governor is the one who calls the leaders meeting,” Heastie told reporters. “I ask you guys to ask him.”

For the past two years, the leader of a small group of breakaway Senate Democrats, Senator Jeff Klein, has also been allowed into the private meetings.  It’s been a longstanding tradition to leave the minority party leaders out of the  private budget sessions. Assembly Republican Leader Brian Kolb has also not been invited.

Cuomo has said it’s the legislature who decides which leaders get to go to the meetings.

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