Gov., Leaders Meet Behind Closed Doors to Discuss Budget

Albany, NY – Governor David Paterson once again raised the specter of a government
shut down following a private meeting with legislative leaders,
saying he feared lawmakers were not taking his June 28th budget
deadline seriously enough.

Republican leaders of the legislature, who were permitted to attend
the private meetings usually restricted to the Democrats, say, after
the meeting, that as far as they can tell, talks are not progressing
very well.

"Not much occurred," said Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos.

The Democrats met behind closed doors for several more minutes after
the GOP leaders left. Afterward, Senate Leader John Sampson and
Speaker Sheldon Silver say they are more optimistic. Senator

"We're closer than we were ever before," said Sampson.

Neither leader offered any details about spending cuts, new taxes,
borrowing or any other actions they might be considering, saying
there's no point in discussing the details until the proposals are
"vetted" by key staff members to make sure they actually produce
enough money to fill the budget gap .

Speaker Silver says a budget agreement could come soon.

"It can be hours," said Silver. "It could be days."

Governor David Paterson shot a hole in that rosy prediction. Senate
Democrats have been saying that they want property tax relief in the
final budget agreement. Paterson says he offered up a new plan to cap
local property taxes on all government entities, except school
districts, as a compromise, but that it was not well received.

"I'm not particularly optimistic about the way it went over," said

Much of the budget has already been approved in Paterson's weekly
emergency extenders but the remaining parts are the most
controversial; how much money to give to schools, and what kind of
additional revenue or borrowing is needed to pay for the spending
they have already approved, as well as closing a $9.2 billion dollar
budget gap.

Paterson has recommended a $1.4 billion dollar cut to school aid.
Assembly Democrats want about half of that money restored. Speaker
Silver says he hasn't
budged on that position. Paterson says if lawmakers want to restore
the school aid, then they have to find a way to pay for it that is
acceptable to him.

Silver was also asked about Governor Paterson's prior threats that if
there's no budget deal this week, Paterson would put the rest of his
spending plan into the June 28th emergency extender and force
lawmakers to pass it or shut down the government.
Silver dismissed that deadline.

"The deadline was April 1st, obviously we didn't make that deadline,"
said Silver "It's the only deadline I know."

Governor Paterson bristled when told about the Speaker's answer,
saying he expressly told the Legislative Leaders that the budget
would have to be done by June 28th, one way or the other.

"Maybe somebody thinks I'm playing around," said Paterson. "What I
said is true."

Legislative leaders are not looking forward to any kind of show down
next Monday. They have so far lost every single round with the
governor in the emergency extender battles. Speaker Silver says he
does not intend to have to do another emergency spending bill this
year, and will continue to try to win a budget agreement.