Senate OKs spending to keep state running

New York’s Senate gave final approval Monday to emergency spending that will keep state government r

New York’s Senate gave final approval Monday to emergency spending that will keep state government running. Then senators joined Assembly members on their Passover-Easter vacation for the next eight days, leaving the state without a budget in place when the new fiscal year begins Thursday.

The Democrat-led Assembly passed the bill Friday and, like the Senate, isn’t scheduled to return until April 7.

“Deadlines need to be abided by and met,” Oneida County Republican Sen. Joseph Griffo said from the Senate floor during the brief session on what was to have been the first day of the break.

Senate Democrats bristled at such Republican attacks. Democrats calculated that before they took the majority in 2008, the Republican-led Senate was a partner in 10 late budgets in 12 years, for a total of 819 days past due, often requiring costly borrowing by schools, local governments and nonprofit social service agencies.

“It’s not a failure, because an on-time budget doesn’t mean a good budget,” said Senate Conference Leader John Sampson, a Brooklyn Democrat. “You want a good budget that doesn’t raise taxes, has property tax relief and shows investment in health and education.”

Albany has met its budget deadline just six times since 1975.

Gov. David Paterson forced lawmakers to accept or reject what he calls a “bare-bones” emergency spending bill, which pays for only legally mandated spending such as Medicaid health insurance for the poor and state worker salaries. Paterson said the bill will not keep full funding flowing to schools, hospitals and other areas, which will mean savings for the state as it faces a $9.2 billion deficit. The resulting pain for schools and local governments usually prompts loud complaints to lawmakers by voters and local officials.

Some lawmakers won’t be home to hear it.

Legislators noted several of their colleagues — Republicans and Democrats — were on their annual exodus to Florida, often returning to Albany tanned and rested and ready to take up the budget where they left off.

“I’m sure a lot of people are leaving and I think it’s obscene,” said Sen. George Maziarz, a Niagara County Republican. “Over in the Assembly, they all left Friday and they’re headed to Florida.”

Maziarz said he invites anyone to check him out during the break, saying he will be working in his district. Many others in the Senate and Assembly, Democrats and Republicans, also say they will stay near home.

State ethics disclosure forms show at least a half-dozen senators and Assembly members own Florida coastal property from Naples to Fort Myers. One has a Hilton Head, S.C., condo.

Paterson on Sunday said all sides were far apart from agreement. He said the closed-door meetings called by the Assembly and Senate Democrats over the weekend were to “make the public feel as if there’s more work being done than there really is.”

“With all due respect to our governor,” Sampson said, “we weren’t fooling anyone. We were working five hours on Saturday, three hours on Sunday, making the hard decisions … but the situation that we’re in, we have to make the right decisions.”

The cost of Monday’s Senate session was $160 a day in expenses for senators living outside the Albany area, a total of $9,444, plus catering and related costs.

Categories: Schenectady County

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