Albany, NY – The State Assembly has now introduced it's version of a state budget, which restores many of Governor David Paterson's cuts to schools. The plan was immediately condemned by Paterson, who predicted that the budget would be late this year.
The Assembly budget plan would restore $800 million dollars of the $1.4 billion dollars in school aid cuts proposed in Governor Paterson's budget. It would raise taxes on cigarettes, but reject the governor's proposed tax on sugared soft drinks, and would keep open parks and historic sites slated for closure.
The plan would also borrow $2 billion dollars to pay for some operating expenses, an idea first proposed by Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch, says Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari.
"Certainly, the gap has to be closed," said Canestrari, who said many Assembly Democrats would have liked to further restore cuts in Governor Paterson's budget, but were unable to because the state is so short on money.
Governor Paterson immediately shot down aspects of the Assembly's budget proposal, saying it doesn't add up to close the $9 billion dollar gap.
"It's great to say we're restoring the cuts, and wave and take a bow and go back and tell the constituency what a wonderful job you've done," said Paterson. "But that's gone on for years around here."
Paterson says he won't accept what he calls "phony remedies" to close the budget gap, and condemned the Assembly provision to borrow money to pay for day to day expenses.
"That's certainly not a valid way to proceed," Paterson said.
Assembly Majority Leader Canestrari says it was Paterson who assigned Ravitch to devising the four year financial plan, which would permit the borrowing as a means to get past the current fiscal crisis.
"Maybe he should talk to his Lieutenant Governor," Canestrari said.
Paterson says he would only agree to the borrowing if fiscal constraints are also imposed. But the governor says he hasn't seen the Assembly's plan in detail.
The Senate Democrats have already presented a plan that adheres to most of the governor's cuts, including the education reductions. It also rejects some of the taxes proposed by the governor, and would make up for the lost revenues by refinancing the tobacco bonds and raiding some other funds.
Despite the progress made by the two houses of the legislature, Paterson predicts that the April 1 deadline will not be met, and says he expects to introduce austerity two week spending extenders until there's an agreement.
"We cannot pass a budget on time, and unfortunately in this period we will have to go to a very bare bones, almost austerity appropriations plan," said Paterson. "Which keeps government running, but will be preparing the people of this state for some very tough sledding."
Paterson says legally, he has to pay the state's share of Medicaid, and pay state workers, but he says other payments, which include schools and local government, not for profits or other vendors, could be put on hold.
And while the governor and the legislature are in disagreement over many of the budget issues, they do agree on the odds of meeting the budget deadline, with just two more days of session left until the break for the Passover and Easter holidays. Says Assembly Majority Leader Canestrari "at this point, it would take a miracle".