Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Budget Negotiations Begin As Dispute Continues


It appears Bruno is going for broke here......with the Republican Party in shambles.......he figures he has nothing to lose by supporting his strongest health care union ally and protecting his remaining long island senators..which districts would get hit the hardest with the redistribution of state aid to new york on time state budget seems out of reach now........andy

There are less than two weeks before the state budget is due but it's not looking promising for an on-time agreement. Negotiations that began Tuesday only displayed just how far apart the leaders are. NY1’s Josh Robin had a tableside view, and filed this report. The set-up for Tuesday’s budget negotiations had the look of a card table and with the multibillion dollar state budget in the balance, the stakes are high. But each player says his opponent is playing with a loaded deck. “This is a game of Three-card Monte,” said Governor Eliot Spitzer. “You know why we’re big spenders?” responded State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno. “Because to fix the distortion in your formula when you submitted it, we need to add dollars.” The back and forth dominated a tense, 52-minute sit-down between Governor Eliot Spitzer and state lawmakers. It was supposed to be a six-way meeting. But the key opponents were Spitzer and Bruno. Their tone was friendly, but it was clear this was not canasta; it was war. “If you were counting, you would find that over $4 billion of that is for property tax relief,” said Bruno. “Joe, smoke and mirrors is not going to get us a budget,” said Spitzer. “It’s time to be real. It’s time to cut the politics. It’s time to come to the table.” At issue was dueling budgets. Spitzer wants health care and education cuts and claims the Senate's plan triggers billions in deficits. But the Republican insists Spitzer's fooling with taxpayers by demanding pricey tax loophole closures, without acknowledging them as taxes. “They are job depriving, tax increases,” said Bruno. “By any name it’s a tax increase.” Spitzer smiled and took notes -- looking like a prosecutor, or a poker player, who sees an endgame. Bruno and his Senate conference are virtually alone in the capitol supporting his budget. And Spitzer is going around him to talk individual Senate Republicans. NY1 has learned Spitzer has meetings Wednesday with individual senators -- and is very close to a deal with a hospital group that used to back Bruno. The senator still does have many friends. After the meeting, Bruno was toasted at a rally of a health care union running ads attacking Spitzer's health care proposals. That group might be one of Bruno's few allies -- but in the state capitol there are few interests better-funded or more skilled at the poker game of the state budget. -Josh Robin

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