Dems boycott budget session

Tempers flared Monday as state lawmakers remained unable to agree on a late state budget that will l
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Tempers flared Monday as state lawmakers remained unable to agree on a late state budget that will likely be the most tardy since at least 2004.

Most Democrats in the minority of New York’s Senate boycotted the session Monday because they said they were denied access to budget bills scheduled for votes.

For a short time, the Democrats denied the Senate a quorum, which was needed to vote on a budget “extender” bill that would continue the state payroll and other expenses for several more days while the Legislature tries to agree on a budget that was due April 1.

The emergency pay bill already approved by the Assembly was eventually passed by the Senate after a testy exchange on the Senate floor.

No major budget bills were passed.

“I’ve never seen this before, ever,” said Democratic Sen. Eric Schneiderman of the Bronx, one of two of the Senate’s 29 Democratic members in the chamber with 33 Republicans. He remained as a spokesman for the Democrats in the half-filled chamber.

“The ordinary process by which we try to pass a budget, even the minimal transparency … seems to have fallen by the wayside,” he said. “The process has broken down.”

“I rebelled against a process that is exclusionary, “ said Democratic Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson of the Bronx. Then she directed her comments to the Republicans: “You ought to be ashamed, not me, but you should be ashamed of the way you conduct yourself in these chambers.”

“They aren’t doing their jobs, they should be ashamed of themselves,” said Republican Sen. William Larkin of Orange County. “What happened to the oath that you took?” he said to Democratic senators.

Republican Sen. Thomas Libous of Broome County said most Democrats just didn’t show up for work Monday.

“Many of them refused to come here and do their job today,” he said in the floor debate.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno appeared angry. He criticized the Democrats for holding a weekend gathering of the conference of Democrats from rural areas in Saratoga Springs. The gathering in Bruno’s district resulted in news accounts critical of Republicans.

Bruno is trying to stop gains by Democrats who hope to take the majority this election year for the first time since the beginning of World War II, except for one year.

Bruno said on the Senate floor that many Republicans were in Albany over the weekend, working or prepared to work on the budget, while Democrats were “acting very Spitzer-like, putting politics ahead of governing. And I was very disappointed in that.”

Bruno referred to the former Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who resigned last month after he was implicated in a prostitution investigation. He had a yearlong political feud with Bruno, who accused Spitzer of engaging in dirty tricks.

“I think it was childish for legislators to not show up. Show up and debate the issue,” Bruno said. “That’s what you were elected to do.”

Senate Democratic leader Malcolm Smith of Queens said his members were available all weekend for budget work, but were excluded by the Senate’s Republican majority.

“We’re just not going to be part of political gamesmanship,” Smith said in a press conference.

The protest Monday — unseen in the Senate for years — came as the $124 billion state budget was hours away from being a week late.

Categories: Schenectady County

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