State budget basics settled

Gov. David Paterson and legislative leaders said Thursday night that they have agreed to the framewo

Gov. David Paterson and legislative leaders said Thursday night that they have agreed to the framework of a state budget deal that would increase spending about 4.5 percent and could meet Tuesday’s start of the fiscal year.

Much work remains to be done to have an on-time budget, but the broad parameters were agreed to between the Democratic governor in just his second week on the job and the majority and minority leaders of the Senate and Assembly.

The 2008-09 budget would total about $124 billion. Paterson’s budget office said the increase from the current budget has yet to be calculated, but would likely be between 4 percent and 4.5 percent. Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno estimates the growth at about 4.7 percent.

The handshake deal doesn’t include a tax increase for New Yorkers making $1 million or more, as had been proposed by the Assembly.

“We don’t have a plan to raise taxes,” Bruno said at a Thursday night announcement.

That measure was supported by Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, but opposed by Bruno.

They didn’t say how much school aid would increase. That, along with other spending areas, will be debated among lawmakers beginning today.

The increased spending in the state budget is less than it was when former Gov. Eliot Spitzer presented his first budget proposal in January. That hasn’t happened in decades. By comparison, the current budget increased spending by more than 8 percent over the 2006-07 budget.

Paterson said “the terrible truth” about New York’s economy in a national recession forced the change.

But none of Thursday’s agreement is final. Lawmakers and Paterson still must agree on the thorny issues of school aid and health care spending that have derailed budget deals in past years.

“We have reached a point,” Paterson said, “the first milestone in a long process.”

On Jan. 22, Spitzer proposed a $124.3 billion budget to the Legislature that would increase spending by about 5 percent. It would close a deficit that was then estimated at $4.4 billion created by declining growth in revenues in a slowing economy.

In February, Spitzer cited more dire economic news and cut his proposal by $384 million, while predicting the deficit was about $4.6 billion.

In his first week on the job, after Spitzer resigned over a prostitution scandal, Paterson called for $800 million more in cuts, which would have resulted in an increase in spending over the current budget of about 3.7 percent.

Legislative leaders on Thursday agreed to part of Paterson’s cut, restoring $500 million of the spending.

The result is that the framework announced Thursday will be $300 million less than the last official executive budget proposal — in February. Thursday’s agreement is also about $700 million less than Spitzer’s initial budget proposal made in January.

Silver said Paterson, the former Senate minority leader and lieutenant governor, showed “remarkable leadership” in getting the tentative deal.

“The governor has brought us to a place we needed to be,” said Senate Democratic leader Malcolm Smith, who had pushed for some of the deepest cuts in spending. “We are here the rest of the week and the weekend . . . to get a budget on time.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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