ALBANY – Lawmakers whiffed Monday night in their attempt to pass an on-time state budget, but appeared poised to ink a $124 billion spending plan later this week.

Senate GOP leader Joe Bruno was optimistic a final deal will be sealed by Friday. Final negotiations between legislative leaders and Gov. Paterson continued into Monday night.

“We have a conceptual agreement, as you know, and we’re just trying to keep that intact,” Bruno told reporters.

The pieces of the budget puzzle that have fallen into place include:

Imposing a sales tax on Internet purchases made by New Yorkers.

Approving a $1.50 tax hike on cigarettes.

Increasing school aid to more than $21 billion, bumping the city’s share to more than $8billion.

Agreeing to spend $38 million to extend public health insurance to 400,000 New York children.

Closing bank and corporation tax loopholes.

As part of the budget agreement, Paterson increased total state spending by 4.4% – a rate that conservative fiscal watchdog E.J. McMahon said will likely leave a $6billion budget gap next year.

“The increase in school aid is gigantic, and most of the blame belongs with [ex-Gov. Eliot] Spitzer, who came in way too high,” McMahon said.

But Billy Easton of the Alliance for Quality Education was worried Senate Republicans are “driving for a deal that would cut long-term annual aid. That would be a bad deal for schoolkids.”

The state budget proposal was due at midnight Monday.

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The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.