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Still no state budget as chaos reigns

The bruising budget battle is boiling over in Albany as both the governor and state Legislature seem to be spending more time taking public shots at each other than trying to come to a budget deal that is quickly approaching three months overdue.

“At this point it’s touch and go, it’s more of casual conversations than anything else,” State Senator Jose Peralta said shortly before noon on Tuesday, June 29, while discussing the status of talks between the governor and Senate and Assembly leaders.

Legislators continued to meet in their respective conferences on Tuesday, after a chaotic Monday that began when the State Senate and Assembly failed to accept the budget extenders Paterson had been pushing through during the past month, and they came up with their own budget bill. Both Houses passed the bill, which restored nearly $600 million of $1.4 billion in proposed education cuts, but Paterson used his line item veto to squash any of the restorations that will continue to leave the state’s budget unbalanced.

“If they’re restorations that involve additional spending, I’m going to have to veto them,” Paterson said. “I never get any joy in vetoing education money . . . it breaks my heart to do this. The only reason I’m doing this is I think that otherwise we are, proverbially, kicking the can down the road and creating a greater problem.”

Peralta said that the governor is mortgaging the state’s future by not restoring the education cuts, which the Senate has already agreed to cut more than $800 million from the budget.

“As governor he wants to slash because it’s more important for him to become the conservative, frugal governor who will have his long lasting legacy that I balanced the budget,” Peralta said. “That’s all he has to worry about now is his legacy whether he says no or denies it or spins around the answer.”

Meanwhile, Peralta said that the Senate Democratic Conference leaders are in talks with Republican Senate leaders to see if they can garner enough Republican votes to override the governor’s veto. An override would require a two-thirds vote so many Republican senators would have to cross over.

However, Republican Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos criticized the Senate Democrats for leaving the Republicans out of budget negotiations and said “they should not expect or count on Senate Republicans to bail them out of the mess that they have made of this budget and the damage they are inflicting on taxpayers.”

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