Sunday, March 04, 2007
3 Men at a Podium or "We're in the Money"
Buffalo News AP Story..... Spitzer, Bruno, Silver reach agreement that should smooth budget negotiations
In addition to the $120.6 billion that Spitzer said would be available when he unveiled his 2007-08 budget proposal on Jan. 31, there will be an extra $575 million to spend, to give back in tax cuts or to pump into reserve funds for the state fiscal year that begins April 1.
A memo issued by the state Budget Division said the extra money came from slightly better than expected tax collections in January and February and "the moderately more positive economic outlook" for the new fiscal year.
Earlier this week, the State Senate's Republican majority estimated there would be an extra $996 million available, while the Assembly's Democratic majority estimated an extra $834 million.
By agreeing on the $575 million figure, the new Democratic governor and the legislative leaders have removed what in the past has proven to be a major stumbling block in producing budgets.
Also, their agreement that some extra money is available could make budget negotiations somewhat easier given Spitzer's call for trimming the growth in Medicaid spending. The governor's plan for limiting health care dollars has drawn criticism from the state's largest health care workers union and the Greater New York Hospital Association - two politically powerful forces in the Legislature.
The union and the hospital association have joined forces to run a series of television ads statewide attacking the Spitzer plan. The governor has countered with ads paid for by his campaign committee.
Both Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, have already expressed concern about trimming health spending.
Spitzer indicated he isn't prepared to surrender in the fight over health spending even if the fiscal picture is rosier.
"While this new revenue is welcome, it should not be viewed as an excuse to revert back to past decision-making that has led to the many challenges we face today," he said.
"Rather, it provides us with a further opportunity to change the status quo and continue the pivot toward a responsible budget. That means spending only what we can afford and spending only on priorities that serve New Yorkers, not special interests."