Gov To Legislature: Get Comfortable

Gov. David Paterson vowed today that he will keep the Legislature in Albany until a budget deal is reached – starting with the rare Sunday night special session he has called for 7 p.m. this evening.

Speaking to reporters at the gay pride parade in Manhattan, Paterson said the two-way deal the Assembly and Senate plan to pass tomorrow “theoretically” will avoid a government shutdown, but also called it a “gimmick to prevent me from using emergency appropriations.”

“The Legislature is going to stay there till this gets done,” Paterson said.

“So, I know they’re coming today, but bring extra clothes because this process is going to end when we go back today.”

The governor questioned whether the legislative budget deal will be balanced (we have yet to see the revenue bill, although there’s supposed to be one out today), saying he doesn’t want to see a repeat of last year, when the Legislature was forced to enact mid-year cuts to address a post-deal deficit.

“I do not want to come back to Albany with an unbalanced budget like we did in the middle of the year last year because remember, that deficit was never closed by the Legislature,” the governor said.

“It led to me having to withhold payments from schools, not for profits and local governments who didn’t deserve for that to happen. That happened because the Legislature would not close the out-year deficit and that is not in dispute, that’s a fact and I don’t want it to happen again.”

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Silver And Sampson Go Their Own Way (Updated)

Fed up with Gov. David Paterson’s “my way or the highway” approach to the budget battle, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson have forged a two-man alliance and will pass their own budget bills on Monday.

The legislative leaders just released a joint statement, which originated from Silver’s office.

The speaker has been a lot clearer in his anti-Paterson sentiment of late than Sampson, who was insisting as recently as last night that the governor really truly wants a three-way deal – although that’s becoming increasingly harder to believe.

“We recognize that New York faces extraordinary fiscal challenges, and that this budget will include billions in cuts,” Silver said on Friday.

“However, we are committed to sparing our schools from the most devastating cuts and ensuring that our higher education system remains accessible to all New Yorkers.”

“We are also committed to acting responsibly with Senate and the Governor to complete this process and to continue the operations of government.”

(Note that “on Friday” line. Today is Shabbos, and so Silver is out-of-pocket and therefore couldn’t give a quote. It also means this was a done deal yesterday – more on that in a minute).

“Government works best when we are working together. The budget bills introduced by the Legislature make the smart cuts and tough choices we need to give New Yorkers a budget they can afford,” Sampson said.

“We will continue negotiations, meet our obligation, and pass a fair budget that keeps New York working.”

Late last night (right before midnight, actually, which is just over four hours after Sampson and Silver had their fruitless meeting with the governor at his Manhattan office) four budget bills were quietly introduced in Albany. (Two appropriations bills and two language bills).
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Roboing The Budget (Take II)

A reader who lives in Republican Sen. Jim Seward’s district (the 51st SD) reports receiving a robo-poll shortly after 5 p.m. today that asked for yes/no answers to the following questions:

1. Do you think the state should cut spending to reduce the deficit?
2. Do you support a cap on school property taxes?
3. Do you agree that the single-most important issue right now is creating jobs in our area

The first two of those questions could be applied to the budget extender bill Gov. David Paterson says he’ll soon be dropping on the Legislature.

(We haven’t yet seen the actual bill language, but reporters were briefed earlier today on the salient details by Budget Director Robert Megna and also given this background fact sheet).

This isn’t the first time the Senate GOP has done a round of robocalls to take the temperature of constituents in advance of an extender vote.

The last report of such a call came from Long Island, where Democratic Senate candidate Regina Calcaterra’s campaign used it as a hammer with which to hit her GOP target, Sen. Ken LaValle.

Silver’s Wait And See Approach To Paterson

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver sounded exasperated about the lack of a three-way budget deal this afternoon while speaking with reporters, but declined to declare outright that Gov. David Paterson’t isn’t negotiating in good faith, saying only: “I think we’ll find that out over the weekend.”

Silver said he and Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson “basically have an agreement on health appropriations. On language and health, except for probably one or two items, which I would think would take about 15 minutes to resolve.”

“The governor does not appear to want to send it up,” the speaker said. “The appropriation is totally signed off since Wednesday and he does not appear to want to send that up.”

“But, you know, we’re talking,” Silver continued. “Senator Sampson and I, as you know, have talked. Unfortunately while we’re here, the governor is preparing a major emergency bill. We have not been briefed. He has not talked to us about it at all.”

Silver reiterated that the issues of key importance to his conference are restoring some of his education aid cuts and safeguarding an “affordable” SUNY/CUNY system that is “available to all residents of New York; If we go away from that mission, we’re doing a disservice to this state.”

Sampson And Silver Head To NYC, Hope To Meet Paterson

Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver just emerged from a two-way meeting at the Capitol and informed reporters they will head down the Thruway in hopes of meeting with Gov. David Paterson, who departed Albany yesterday and has not returned.

It’s unclear where, exactly, Paterson has been and what he’s been doing since he did his early-morning radio shows (WGY and WOR) yesterday and then held a brief press gaggle.

Erin Billups of NY1 reports the legislative leaders hope to confab with the governor in NYC before sundown – perhaps sometime around 6 p.m., I’m told.

Silver is an Orthodox Jew and observes Shabbat, which starts when it gets dark and lasts until the same time tomorrow. That means he’s out of pocket and can’t do any budget negotiations, although staffs generally continue to meet through the weekends.

Sampson insisted earlier today that he’s still holding out for a three-way deal. He told reporters he and Silver are pretty much in agreement, and now just need Paterson to get on board.
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Budget Waiting Game

You might consider those early weekend plans. It’s shaping up to be a long day at the Capitol.

The Assembly and Senate came to a tentative agreement on the substance of all the remaining budget bills over the past 24 hours with the exception of revenues and the still-contentious SUNY overhaul plan, a legislative source confirms.

The question now remains: What will Gov. David Paterson do?

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson had a face-to-face yesterday afternoon, but the governor wasn’t around for that meeting. (He departed the Capital Region after his early-morning radio round-up and had yet to return as of shortly before 10 a.m. this morning).

A source confirmed Sampson spoke to the governor by phone yesterday. I have yet to confirm whether Silver also got a call, or placed one. In-person meetings are expected some time later today.
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NYCLU Keeps Gay Marriage In Mix

The New York Civil Liberties Union released a new Web video to mark Pride that is designed to keep the same-sex marriage issue alive in spite of the fact that it is not currently on the front burner in Albany.

“The majority of New Yorkers support fair marriage laws that protect lesbian and gay families,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “We must keep working and show our elected officials that they must stand up for all New Yorkers.”

The last public poll I recall on this issue (Siena, April 2009) found New Yorkers supported the Senate voting to pass the gay marriage bill (53-39), which would have virtually guaranteed it would become law since the Assembly and the governor were both on board.

(For the record, this is counter to what Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. told me during an interview two days ago, insisting that 60 percent of New Yorkers oppose gay marriage. I meant to check that figure earlier. Sorry).

The NYCLU video features footage from the Senate debate last December, after which the gay marriage bill failed, 38-24. It’s posted on the organization’s Web site, launched last year to help same-sex marriage supporters lobby lawmakers to pass the bill.

The World According To Shelly Silver

This video is just so chock-full of quintessential Silverisms that it almost needs no commentary whatsoever.

My favorite line: “We’ll have a budget deal when we have a budget deal and we’ll enact the budget when we have a budget deal. My members will be here as necessary to enact the budget.”

The speaker also continues to insist that “progress is being made,” and the reinstatement of the clothing sales tax – which he insists isn’t a tax increase, but rather “a temporary suspension of the sale tax exemption” – was the governor’s idea, not his.

In addition, Silver expressed optimism that the state will receive more than $1 billion worth of federal FMAP cash that has been in limbo for some time now, adding: “There’s a good chance we’re getting the money. If we don’t get the money, we’ll deal with it at that point. We’ll deal whatever shortfalls there are, if in fact there are shortfalls.”

However, the speaker and the governor appear to be at odds on this, too. A source in the Paterson administration tells NY1’s Erin Billups there’s no way that state will be getting all of the FMAP cash it had expected and is highly likely to receive nothing at all.

Senate Dems Push GOP On BP (Updated)

The Senate Democrats are continuing their effort to try to capitalize on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill backlash, launching an on-line petition drive to “tell the GOP to dump BP.”

“This week, Senate Republicans sided with one of the worst perpetrators of environmental destruction in history, choosing oil industry profits over the health of New Yorkers,” the Democrats’ petition reads.

“With at least 1.5 million gallons of oil still spewing into the Gulf every day, Senate Republicans plotted with BP’s chief lobbying firm in Albany and voted to squash a bill that will help over 12 million New Yorkers living in polluted air.”

At issue is bill that would reduce the level of of sulfur in home heating oil sold in New York to the same levels the oil used in diesel trucks. BP lobbied against the measure, which narrowly passed the Senate in a party-line vote with all the Republicans voting “no.”
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Paterson: Taxes Have Been On The Table For Months

Despite all the tough talk at the Capitol about refusing to accept any new taxes or fees while the budget negotiations have dragged on, it turns out that the idea of raising taxes to help close the $9.2 billion budget deficit has been on the table for some time now.

At least that’s what Gov. David Paterson says.

The governor granted reporters a quick Q&A session following his last-minute (in other words, not in last night’s press advisory) appearance with WGY’s Don Weeks this morning.

He didn’t provide a lot more detail on the tax question, although he did stress that he would still prefer his own proposals – wine in grocery stores, the soda tax etc. – to the ideas now being floated.

“Well, you know, obviously there’s been talk about the taxes on clothing and that kind of thing, but I don’t want to unnecessarily alarm anyone until the budget is actually passed,” the governor said.

“What I’ll say…is: The taxes are going to be about 10 percent of the deficit reduction plan. There will be zero in borrowing and the rest will be some rather serve cuts which may be unpopular but they will keep the state from becoming insolvent.”

“…There is no plan. So, there’s a lot of conversation about it, and it gets out and then you ask me about it. There’s no specific plan. It’s just something that has been raised, and, by the way, it’s been raised for the last three months.”

“…I wouldn’t put it on any party individually; I mean who brought it up is really inconsequential.”