Albany Averts Shutdown in Final Hour

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The New York Legislature passed an emergency spending bill Monday night that gives the state enough money to keep running - and averted a government shutdown.

The Senate, with some drama, voted 34-27 to approve the bill that easily passed in the Assembly.

The move ended the latest scare in a two-year-old fiscal crisis. Even though that crisis may have been averted, there is still no budget. The state budget is now more than 10 weeks overdue. 

A shutdown would have idled many of the state's 200,000 workers and disrupted or suspended nonessential services including running lottery games, issuing driver's licenses and paying unemployment and welfare benefits as well as closing parks and campgrounds.

In an interview after the vote, Governor Paterson said lawmakers are not focused on necessary spending cuts nor do they seem ready to make the sacrifice's needed to close the state's over 9-billion dollar deficit.

"There is talk about everything around here except cuts," Paterson told WNYC. "We're close to a deal, we'll be borrowing, we might be taxing, we might be doing a whole lot of things. When we start talking about revenue reductions, when people's sacred cow get put on the table, as opposed to saying 'no' to everything; then I'll say, 'we're making progress.'"

The Senate's Democratic majority had tried to rein in one member - Sen. Pedro Espada of the Bronx - and appease another - Sen. Ruben Diaz of the Bronx. Diaz won a $188 million restoration of funding Monday, most of it federal. About $18 million of that money will go to keep senior centers open in poor neighborhoods in New York City. Despite the funding concessions, Diaz surprised many Democrats by voting against the bill on Monday. He set up another potential showdown over an emergency bill next week if there is still no agreement on a budget.

In the end, the Democrat-led Senate needed support from the Republican minority that had been voting en bloc against the bill. Three Republicans, Senators Hugh Farley of Schenectady County, Roy McDonald of Saratoga County and Charles Fuschillo Jr. of Long Island, joined Democrats to vote in favor of the bills.

Both Senate and Assembly leaders said they felt progress was being made on a total budget agreement.

Governor Paterson said he may include the most controversial portions of his budget - school aid cuts and new taxes on cigarettes and soda - in future weekly extenders. But he said he'd prefer an agreement with legislature on the total budget instead.

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