Peralta thrown into budget mess, learns to swim

After almost two months in office, no sign hangs outside of Senator Jose Peralta’s district office on Junction Boulevard in East Elmhurst.

However, seated inside, a grayer Peralta looked like a veteran and established politician, as he confidently talked about the stalled budget negotiations in Albany and the goals he has set for himself and his district.

“My priorities are education, health care, and economic development,” he said. “So I’ve been very, very vocal with my leadership – that we need to sit down and finalize this budget.”

A threat to Peralta’s priorities – the precarious situation in Albany, where the Legislature approved and Governor David Paterson has signed six emergency spending plans to keep the New York State government in operation – could go from bad to worse on June 1. The state must close a $9.2 billion budget gap.

“This furlough situation is an extension of that,” said Peralta of the measure approved on May 10 to make state employees take an unpaid day off from work per week, a move that saves the government $30 million a week. “We have this June 1 deadline looming over our heads and I’ve been pushing my leadership with [Senate majority leaders] John Sampson and Malcolm Smith and letting them know how important it is that we come to a resolution on this budget.”

Neither Peralta nor his colleagues have received a paycheck since April 1, the missed budget deadline.

According to him, the Senate Democrats “are not budging” on the issue of a property tax rebate to lessen the burden on people with high taxes and also seniors, despite Paterson and the Assembly’s resistance. He believes however, that the health care systems will survive the budget cuts that have been proposed. “But education is a place that we need to do a lot better,” he said.

Not entirely for or against the sugar tax on bottled beverages, he acknowledged the tax could raise anywhere between $200 and $500 million dollars.

“It’s been ping-ponged back and forth,” he said. “It goes back and forth, but from the state’s point of view, it’s about making sure that we close this gap and we’re going to do it in a way that promotes health issues.”

“It’s a possibility,” Peralta said about whether he would vote to for it. “I’m still thinking about it.”

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