New York Gov. David Paterson said Tuesday he plans to submit budget bills and threatened to include them in next week’s emergency spending bills if they aren’t passed.
Paterson also said he would keep the Legislature in session working on the budget if they have not enacted a budget by the end of the legislative session on Monday.
“I would like the Legislature to pass these bills during this week so as to try to avoid a problem with next week’s emergency appropriation,” Paterson said in a telephone conference with reporters. “We have to make some tough choices and that means reductions.”
The bills would include budgets for economic development, transportation, and public safety. Paterson did not elaborate on what he would include in the bills.
“I think you’ll see it soon enough,” Paterson said. “I’m not going to get down into the weeds.”
The bills were still being drafted and would have a mix of measures already agreed upon by the Legislative majority and other proposals, said spokeswoman Jessica Bassett.
Travis Proulx, spokesman for the Senate Majority Democrats, said they could not comment on the bills because they had not seen them yet.
The state narrowly avoided a government shutdown Monday when the Legislature passed an extender bill that included cuts to mental health and social services spending.
Observers estimate that roughly half of the state spending in Paterson’s $135 billion annual budget for the fiscal year that began April 1 was included in the last two emergency spending bills passed by lawmakers in each of the last two weeks. Those extenders have cut an estimated $1.1 billion — including $775 million in health care spending — from the state’s $9.2 billion deficit. The governor’s executive budget proposal to cut $1.4 billion of education funding has been hotly contested.
Ron Rock, former deputy state budget director and currently a lobbyist at Brown & Weinraub PLLC, said the governor is pressuring lawmakers to agree on the budget before he puts education cuts into an extender.
“Everybody is very uneasy about it,” Rock said. “Right now the push is to get them very serious this week and to come out with an agreement here hopefully by the weekend.”
Lawmakers would like to end the legislative session concurrently with the last votes on the budget.
“At this point it’s, 'wrap everything thing up and see you after the election,’ or if the budget’s not done, we bumble through the summer somehow,” he said.
In the absence of a budget, lawmakers would have to come to Albany every week to vote on the weekly emergency spending bills that have kept the state running since fiscal 2011 began on April 1.
“We will stay here until this budget gets passed,” Paterson said.
The piecemeal way in which the budget has been passed has caused headaches for counties.
“It’s a challenge to understand what they’re doing,” said New York State Association of Counties executive director Stephen Acquario. “It’s not the way to govern. It’s not the way to construct a spending plan. The threat of a governmental shutdown is what is forcing these actions to take place.”
The extender bills have shifted between $30 million and $50 million of costs onto counties, Acquario said.
Erie County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz said the piecemeal approach to budget cuts has left his county wondering if it will be reimbursed for services it provides.
“Normally, when the budget is passed we can start looking at it, we can check out the impact,” Poloncarz said. “A change that was included in the extender last approved, they may amend next week. We don’t know where exactly we’re going to be in relation to the state and the services that we have to provide … If we do provide it, it will be at our own risk.”