ALBANY — Gov. David A. Paterson prepared a final emergency spending bill on Friday which, short of an agreement with legislative leaders on traditional budget bills, will end New York’s nearly three-month-old budget showdown on Monday.
What will be in that emergency bill, which the Legislature can either approve or ignore and shut down government, wasn’t known by early Friday afternoon. Lawmakers were bracing for the lame duck Democrat governor seeking to establish his legacy to include his priorities and not those of lawmakers who all face election in the fall.
“If the governor was going to stuff us, I wish he’d done it April 1,” said Democratic Assemblyman William Parment of Jamestown.
The sentiment is shared by many lawmakers who have each had $18,000 in pay delayed since the April 1 budget deadline passed. Many are cranky from a string of 14-hour days in Albany for a session that was scheduled to end five days ago. They’re lashing out at each other in floor debates, often ignoring long observed decorum.
In each of the last three emergency bills, Paterson has negotiated through the weekend and compromised with lawmakers before the Monday votes. Private talks are expected this weekend.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Conference Leader John Sampson said they are close on a budget deal. They sought to meet Friday afternoon with Paterson, who was in New York City while they were in Albany.
“Unfortunately, while we hear the governor is preparing a major emergency bill, we have not been briefed, he has not talked to us at all,” Silver said Friday morning.
Asked if he thinks Paterson is negotiating in good faith, Silver said: “I think we’ll find that out over the weekend.”
Sampson was more conciliatory.
“I’m looking forward to passing budget bills and not doing everything through extenders,” said Sampson, a Brooklyn Democrat.
“Of course I’m always concerned about what’s going to be in (the governor’s emergency bill) because, remember, I have to get 32 votes,” Sampson said of the total needed in the Senate to approve any measure.
Democrats have 32 members. The Senate’s 30 members have mostly voted in a bloc against the Democrats, except notably on June 14 when failure to replace a couple of threatened “no” votes from Democrats could have shut down government.
That’s Paterson’s hammer to end one of the latest budget stalemates.
“We are not here to shut down government, so we will proceed in a way that will try to avoid that no matter what,” Silver said.
The 2010-11 budget must contend with a $9.2 billion deficit, the second year of a fiscal crisis begun in the recession. Paterson has called for cuts in spending in areas usually immune to anything but large increases in aid. The biggest sticking point now is his call for about a 5 percent cut in school aid, more than $1 billion, and his insistence on a policy measure to give the public university systems more autonomy from Albany including the power to set tuition.
Several taxes, fees and other measures to raise revenue also are being discussed, including the end of a sales tax exemption on clothes and shoes costing less than $110. Leaders already have agreed to a $1.60 per pack increase in the cigarette tax and to try to collect sales tax on long untaxed cigarette sales from Indian businesses.