Legislature passes spending bill of $16B to keep gov’t running – QNS.com

Legislature passes spending bill of $16B to keep gov’t running

Governor David Paterson (r.) and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver speak with reporters about the state budget. AP Photo/Tim Roske
By Howard Koplowitz

A state government shutdown was averted after the state Legislature approved an emergency spending bill late Monday with the help of three Republican state senators.

The legislation provides $16.4 billion in funding to help state services and agencies run until June 20, including $2.096 billion for state employees including troopers, guardsmen, corrections officers, nurses and social service workers.

Also approved was $261 million for non-state transportation capital projects, $140.3 million in transit aid, $195 million for unemployment benefits and $149 million for mental hygiene agencies.

“To give New York a fair and responsible budget, we must continue to put partisanship aside and find common solutions to the crisis we all face,” Senate Majority Conference Leader John Sampson (D-Brooklyn) said in a statement.

The spending bills passed by a vote of 34-27.

The three Republican senators were the only members of their party to vote for the legislation.

The state budget, due April 1, has been more than two months late. Since then, legislators have had to approve temporary spending bills to keep government running.

Republicans were needed to pass the latest budget extender because Sen. Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx), who would have been the 32nd and decisive vote, refused to sign off on the plan.

Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) said the Legislature had no choice but to vote for the emergency bill.

“What is the alternative? The alternative is a government shutdown, which is a horrible alternative, if it is an alternative at all,” he said.

Addabbo said the three Republican senators, none of whom were from Queens or the city, “saw that the government shutting down is not the way to go.”

Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) criticized Democrats for excluding Republicans from budget talks as a reason for why a budget has yet to pass.

“Had Sen. Sampson and [state Assembly] Speaker [Sheldon] Silver [D-Manhattan] followed the law and convened budget conference committees, I believe we would have a budget in place and not be talking about a government shutdown.”

Meanwhile, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli shot down “outrageous and unfounded rumors and erroneous press reports” that said he would approve the state to borrow money from the state pension fund.

“Let me be very clear: The pension fund will not be used to balance the budget,” DiNapoli said.

“Shame on those individuals who are playing politics, trying to mislead taxpayers and scare members and retirees who rely on the fund for their financial security,” he said. “The fund is not a political football.”

DiNapoli said the pension fund posted its third-best year by gaining 25.9 percent in fiscal year 2009-10, which boosted the fund’s assets to $132.6 billion.

“I will not sacrifice that strength to a dysfunctional budget process,” he said. “The state comptroller’s office has a long history of protecting the fund from raids. I will protect the fund from any raids under any circumstances.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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