Assembly Democrats are coming back to Albany this week, and planning for 2018 is heating up. Lawmakers recognize they have some daunting challenges ahead of them when it comes to the state budget.

"That, I assume, will be front and center with the conversations we'll be having over the next couple of days, and none of them are encouraging, quite frankly," said Assemblywoman Pat Fahy (D - Albany).

The state is facing a budget deficit of at least $4 billion, and a push by Congress to end the deduction of state and local taxes could have major consequences. As a result, lawmakers say they'll have to adjust.

"There's a lot of bad news to go around, so I'm readjusting my expectations," Fahy said.

But even as the state grapples with its largest deficit in years, education advocates will once again push for a $2 billion increase in education aid in order to fully fund and support poorer school districts in the state. 

"[One and a half billion dollars] alone will just maintain current services and not improve anything," said Jasmine Gripper with the Alliance for Quality Education. "We really want to improve the quality of education and opportunities that students have."

Gripper says that budget gap or not, the state has a responsibility to find the money.

"Let's keep in mind we live in the wealthiest country in the world," she said. "We live in one of the wealthiest states. New York state has money. It's how we make our priorities. Are we going to prioritize and help the rich or are we going to make them pay their fair share so we have enough money for our schools and education?"

And state officials aren't just feeling pressure on school aid for kindergarten through grade 12. Governor Andrew Cuomo is also being pushed to back a bill that would lock in more money for the state's public colleges.

"It was passed by both houses, and there's just a few weeks left," said NYPIRG Higher Education Coordinator Emily Skydel, "and he has the power to sign something that could have a real funding impact on the quality of students' education."

The legislative session is scheduled to begin January 3.