Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Getting it right, not just done

Newsday JAMES T. MADOR


Some interesting points on how to get a state budget passed on time.....enjoy...........andy

ALBANY - While Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver yesterday ruled out a disruption of government services if Gov. Eliot Spitzer and legislative leaders fail to reach agreement on a new state budget in the next couple of days, the governor refrained from speculation.The spending plan must be adopted by Saturday before the April 1 start of the new fiscal year. But for 20 of the past 22 years, governors and legislatures have blown the deadline; only during the final two years of Gov. George Pataki's tenure were there on-time budgets."We still have seven days to go," said Spitzer, after speaking to editorial writers here. "So, we will see what we can do."Spitzer also repeated his preference for a "correct" budget over "timeliness." This is the Democratic governor's first round of budget talks, though as state attorney general he watched the disagreements among the Republican Pataki and legislative leaders."Everybody would like an on-time budget," Spitzer said. "Both because getting an on-time budget has become, rightly or wrongly, one of the measures of our capacity to run the ship of state as it should be run."The major sticking points remain education funding, particularly for affluent school districts on Long Island, Medicaid spending and tax cuts.Silver (D-Manhattan) urged Spitzer to consider "extenders" that provide money to keep state operations running in the absence of a budget. "We shouldn't disrupt the operations of the people of the state of New York," he said.Late budgets create uncertainty for school districts, charities and others who rely on state aid. But the only immediate impact is on lawmakers, who don't get paid until a budget is adopted.Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Brunswick), through an aide, said, "Our preference is to get a budget done on time and that's something that is still possible."Because of the Jewish Sabbath starting Friday night, however, less than four days remain to strike a deal. The State Legislature is expected to adjourn for the Passover and Easter holidays, though Silver has told his Assembly colleagues to anticipate being called back on April 11 - five days before the session is to resume.Political scientist Gerald Benjamin of SUNY-New Paltz said the state constitution requires that bills lay on lawmakers' desks for three days before being adopted. But that time frame can be shorted by a governor issuing "a message of necessity." Many governors have used such messages, which are controversial because they allow for little analysis before voting starts."It's hard for this governor to do because he's advancing reform and the message of necessity violates reform tenets," Benjamin added.Spitzer spokeswoman Christine Anderson said, "we have not ruled it [message] out."

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