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Paterson promises to finish budget this month

ALBANY — Gov. David Paterson has given New York’s Legislature a deadline of June 28 for adopting a state budget.

“I’m not threatening anyone,” Paterson said Wednesday. “I’m just making a promise.”

The governor said that if lawmakers don’t adopt the 2010-11 budget by June 28, he’ll put all remaining spending and revenue items in upcoming emergency spending bills. He said that will allow local governments, school districts and nonprofit groups to calculate their funding and lawmakers to go home for the summer.

“It’s time to set a deadline,” Paterson told the four legislative leaders at a public meeting Wednesday. “So we will be out of here. You can plan your schedules.”

Lawmakers would have the choice of approving the emergency spending bills or idling state workers and shutting down nonessential services. They have had the same choice and approved similar measures each week since April 1, when this fiscal year’s budget was due and the old budget expired.

The last two short-term spending bills settled this year’s budgets for state parks, the Environmental Protection Fund, health care and social services. The next one will include about $100 million in cuts and the annual budgets for public protection, economic development and transportation, unless legislators approve that bill separately this week.

With the state’s finances looking worse in future years, and with the end of federal stimulus funds and lower tax revenues, Paterson emphasized his opposition to more borrowing.

“I will not sign a budget that has any deficit financing in it,” he said.

Senate Democratic leader John Sampson, a Brooklyn Democrat, said lawmakers can finish the budget sooner than Paterson’s deadline, though he remains in favor of a bond refinancing to raise revenue.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver also said they can finish before June 28, and for the moment they are looking for more spending cuts to get close to eliminating the current deficit.

Paterson said Tuesday he and the legislative leaders remained $1.6 billion apart on cuts or other ways to close the gap. The administration initially projected a $9.2 billion deficit in an overall budget of about $130 billion.

Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos said he opposes borrowing or any new taxes and fees. He said the Republicans have seen only $1 billion in cuts so far and questioned where the balance would come from.
Assembly Republican minority leader Brian Kolb questioned whether Paterson and the Democratic leaders had a revenue plan they hadn’t shared.

“I wouldn’t say there’s a final agreement,” Paterson said.