Budget Bargaining Continues Among State Lawmakers and the Gov.

Albany, NY – New York is set to begin its third week without a budget. Lawmakers
approved yet another round of emergency spending extenders, but not
without some complaints, as Senate Democrats considered new ways of
gaining much needed revenue through a series of new fees on cars,
boats, and houses.


Governor Paterson sent the legislature a third set of austerity
spending measures aimed at keeping the state running for another
week, until April 25th.


In the spending bills, the governor is holding up road and bridge
repair projects, unless they are financed by federal stimulus monies.


Many lawmakers have objected, saying it punishes construction
workers who remain unemployed. Republicans in the Assembly attempted
to pass an amendment to free up the construction projects.
Assemblyman Jim Conte is from Long Island.


"There's two seasons here in New York State, it's winter and
construction season," Conte said. "And we're losing the construction
season."


The amendment failed. Assembly Ways and Means Committee Chair Denny
Farrell says Democrats agree with the GOP that the construction
projects need to begin, but he says their hands are tied, and they
can't change the governor's bills.


"I agree that we should not be stopping jobs, we should be creating
jobs," Farrell said.


As for the Governor's motivations, Farrell said "we don't know what
he's going to do".


Paterson has also delayed state worker raises of 4% that were to have
taken effect at the beginning of April. Unions have filed a
grievance. And the governor is withholding an over $2 billion dollar
payment to schools, because, he says, New York is out of cash.


The governor did not make any public comment Monday, but he issued a
letter to New Yorkers, saying he was reluctant to agree to a number
of proposals put forth by the legislature to close the over $9
billion dollar gap, including a plan by his own Lieutenant Governor,
Richard Ravitch, to borrow $2 billion dollars. Paterson demanded
more spending cuts and urged lawmakers to adopt his plans for new
taxes on cigarettes and sugared soft drinks. The governor said he
would not accept a budget that contained what he called "the same
tired fiscal tricks of the past".


Senate President Pro Temp Malcolm Smith says the stalemate between
the governor and the legislature continues.


"Obviously, we are far apart," Smith said.


Senate Democrats are mulling some new revenue raising proposals of
their own, including boat docking fees, and a charge for new car
buyers and home mortgages. Senator Smith says nothing is set in
stone, though.


"We have to put everything on the table to try to close that gap,"
Smith said.


In the Assembly, Democrats are waiting for the complete figures from
the April 15th tax returns, before making any final budget decisions.


Assembly Ways and Means Committee Chair Farrell says there are some
positive signs already. He says 30% of the tax returns are counted,
and they show a slight increase in revenues. Farrell says those
numbers might not be finalized, though, until early May.


Some lawmakers expressed worries that the budget is now so late, it
could still be unresolved by the May 18th statewide school budget
votes, making it more difficult for schools to plan for the next
academic year. -30-