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NY Legislature Restores Cuts, but Paterson Wields Veto

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David Paterson, in Albany

New York Gov. David Paterson has vetoed over $400 million in additional spending out of the legislature’s budget, saying lawmakers had engaged in “gimmicks” and “chicanery.”

Paterson wasted no time wielding his veto stamp on Monday evening, just hours after the legislature passed its own version of a major part of the state budget and rejecting $419 million in additional school aid.

“I will veto any additional spending in these budget bills,” the governor declared.

The governor says the legislature’s budget, if it stood, could “catapult” the state into a new deficit as high as $1.5 billion. Paterson is angry that lawmakers made no back-up provisions in case the state does not get an anticipated $1 billion in federal Medicaid funds.

“New York again wants to blissfully move forward, fantasizing that the Medicaid money is coming,” said Paterson.

The governor had also sought a new plan to allow public colleges and universities to set their own tuition and a 4 percent property tax cap. All of those ideas were left out of the legislature’s budget.

Paterson had harsh words for legislators, even suggesting that some did not deserve to be re-elected in the fall.

“Perhaps a little shake up would be in order and I’ll leave that for the public to decide,” said Paterson. “You pretty much have to sleep with the flies to get kicked out of office when you’re in Albany.”

Just before the vetoes, Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson had taken pride in corralling his 32 members to vote for the bills. Sampson says the legislature’s budget is sound.

“We balanced the budget with our values and we stopped government from shutting down,” said Sampson.

Sampson said he is also concerned that there is no contingency plan for the loss of the federal Medicaid funds and he said earlier in the day that he promised some of his members he would try to negotiate with the governor to pass the plan to give SUNY and CUNY more freedom to set their own policies.

“This does not mean that communication ends with the governor,” said Sampson.

Assembly Democrats have so far rejected both those plans. In a statement, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said “the governor’s decision to veto these bills will mean larger classes, higher property taxes and more expensive tuition for SUNY and CUNY students.”

The governor said it’s his “final word on the vetoes” but said his “door is open” and he’s willing to discuss any of the other items with the legislature.

Paterson also plans to line-item veto around 6,800 additional spending items from the legislature’s budget, many of them for legislator’s pet projects known as member items. But since he has to initial each action, he says it may take some time.

While the Assembly has enough Democratic members to likely sustain an override vote, it’s uncertain whether the Senate has enough votes to override the governor’s vetoes.