July 29 (Bloomberg) -- New York’s Legislature convened last night as ordered by Governor David Paterson in a bid to break a 17-week budget impasse, adjourning minutes later without taking action.
Although the Senate passed a $136 billion spending plan, it went home before the July 4 holiday without signing off on a way to pay for it. The nation’s third most-populous state has operated under emergency spending measures since April as lawmakers and the governor reduced what had been a $9.2 billion deficit to about $1.5 billion.
“They are being brought back because the budget is not passed and I don’t care how many of them don’t show up, I’m going to keep bringing them back until it is,” Paterson told reporters at his Manhattan office yesterday.
While the Democratic governor has the power to order the senators into session, he cannot compel them to pass his revenue proposals, which include a tax on sugared drinks, empowering state colleges to set tuition increases and imposing a property-tax cap.
The Assembly has already passed a revenue bill that would close the remaining $1.5 billion of the budget gap through such things as taxes on tobacco and nonresident hedge-fund managers, suspension of a sales-tax exemption on clothing under $110, and elimination of charitable deductions for high-income earners.
Shafran said Senate Democrats want the governor to agree to their proposals for other legislation before they vote to approve the Assembly revenue bill.
The Senate agenda includes a plan to give lawmakers two weeks to cut $1 billion from the budget if Congress rejects an increase in the state’s Medicaid subsidy, providing health care for the poor. After two weeks, the governor would have emergency power to make cuts unilaterally. The budget, as passed, counts on the federal aid.
Democratic senators also want to permit state universities to lease their facilities to private businesses to stimulate economic growth and create jobs, said Austin Shafran, a Democratic spokesman.
Senator Malcolm Smith, a Queens Democrat who serves as president of the chamber, didn’t attend the session. Smith had a prior “family commitment,” said Shafran. His absence meant one less vote for the Democrats, who hold a 31-29 majority.
Of the Republicans, Senator Vincent Leibell missed the meeting because he is recovering from surgery and Senator William Larkin was on a previously scheduled vacation, said Scott Reif, their spokesman.
Proposals to Governor
Shafran said Democratic leaders in the Senate and Assembly met during the day, before convening, and sent proposals to the governor for review.
“Comparatively, where the Legislature is right now, just showing up represents progress,” Paterson said yesterday in an interview on WAMC radio. “As far as I’m concerned, they should be available at any moment and if they are not available, they should be close.”
Republicans are voting against all the budget bills “and then quietly, behind the scenes, going to all of the donors and special interests and telling them, ‘We’re not hurting you,’” Paterson said in the interview.
Mark Hansen, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos, didn’t immediately answer requests for comment.
The Assembly voted to adjourn until 10 a.m. today.
----With assistance from Alan Wechsler in Albany. Editors: Pete Young, Walid el-Gabry
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