Budget cuts done, gay marriage defeated

There is finally a budget-cutting agreement in Albany, but not one that closes all of the more than $3 billion gap for this year.

After more than a month of back-and-forth rhetoric between Governor David A. Paterson and the leaders of the State Legislature that produced no results, it looks like all parties have reached an agreement to cut more than $2.7 billion from the 2009-2010 fiscal year budget.

The State Assembly passed legislation late Tuesday night into the wee hours of the morning on December 2, and the State Senate passed the legislation on Wednesday. Governor Paterson said he would sign the cuts, but warned on Tuesday that the agreement did not go far enough to solve the state’s fiscal emergency problems.

“It does not fully address our current-year budget deficit,” Paterson said in a statement after the legislation passed. “It does not solve our severe cash-flow crunch. It does not address our long-term structural imbalance. And at $2.7 billion in current-year savings, it does not even achieve the $2.8 billion deficit reduction target that some have touted for two days.”

The bill that passed the Assembly includes $1.6 billion in cuts and temporary cash transfers from state agencies, $391 million in federal stimulus funds for education allotted for next year, $250 million from a tax amnesty program and more than $600 million in cuts to programs in 134 areas, including higher education, transportation and children and family services.

It does not include any mid-year school aid cuts, including none to private schools, nor does it reduce reimbursements to hospitals, nursing homes and home care.

“Although these cuts do not cover the full scope of the deficit – which may be as high as $3.9 billion – we remain committed to making the same sacrifices that everyday New Yorkers have been making already, without allowing the cuts to fall disproportionately on one segment of the population,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “Today’s agreement includes real recurring cuts in state spending. These were difficult choices to make, but critical to the fiscal stability of our state.”

The legislation the Assembly passed included a 12.5 percent cut to remaining balances of local assistance grants; 5 percent cut to operating aid for SUNY, CUNY and community colleges; 5.4 percent cut to the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities; and $107 million in health care actions. Paterson also agreed to $485 million in agency cuts.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Senate also voted to pass Tier V pension reform and public authority reform, which the Assembly also passed.

In addition to dealing with the budget cuts, the Assembly passed a bill by an 88 to 51 margin that would have legalized gay marriage in New York State. While Paterson had expressed his support for the legislation, saying he would sign it into law if enacted, the bill was defeated in the Senate on Wednesday afternoon by a vote of 38 to 24.

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