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Regional News

Paterson Begins Vetoing Budget


By Karen Dewitt


Albany, NY – Paterson began the arduous process of affixing his name to each of
the almost 6900 line items. He says if legislative leaders want to
approach him with a finished plan for a Medicaid contingency plan
that he's seeking, he'll accept it, but he's not stopping the vetoes
to negotiate.

"I'm not talking to them, ever," said Paterson, who said the
legislature already communicated to him their lack of interest in

"They sent me a message, they sent me a budget that was out of
balance, and did not even address the Medicaid issue," the governor

Paterson wants lawmakers to provide a contingency plan in case $1
billion dollars in anticipated federal Medicaid monies don't
materialize. He would also like a new plan for SUNY and CUNY, that
allows the schools to set their own tuitions, within limits, and a 4%
property tax cap.

The governor, in a carefully constructed photo op, sat at his office
conference table with several legal advisors, as they passed him the
individual line items to veto, one by one.

Some of the first included funding to libraries, additional aid to
schools and money for arts organizations.

Paterson signed diligently, offering quips as he went along.

"My third grade cursive writing teacher is rolling in her grave," he
said at one point.

Paterson's aides say he does not legally have to actually sign each
document, and will likely stamp or initial some of them instead.

Meanwhile, the Senate adjourned for the 4th of July weekend without
completing the revenue portion of the state budget, meaning the
budget will not be finished until at least after the holiday.

The move angered Republican Senators, who urged Senate Democrats to
stay and finish their work, and even asked the governor to call a
special session. Deputy Minority Leader Tom Libous calls the
situation "strange" and "bizarre".

"The Senate Democrats have passed spending but nothing to pay for
it," said Libous. "It doesn't make any sense to me."

Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson says he believes the budget is
now finished.

"We have done our job," said Sampson. "We have done the budget."

The State Comptroller, Tom DiNapoli, does not agree, and a spokesman
says he won't certify the budget without the revenue legislation.
Lawmakers, who have had their pay delayed since the April 1 budget
deadline was missed, also will not be paid.

Senator Sampson denies that the revenue bill is in limbo because he
does not have the 32 votes needed in his conference to approve the
measure. He claims instead that he wants to get the Medicaid
contingency plan in place, first, to avoid more fiscal chaos in the

"There's a possibility there may be a billion dollar shortfall," said
Sampson. "We do not need to deal with another deficit reduction plan
like we did earlier last year."

Senator Sampson says he and the Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver,
presented a Medicaid contingency plan to the governor's budget
director Robert Megna, Wednesday night. Speaker Silver, who
previously has said the back up plan is not necessary, confirms that,
but hints he might want something in return.

"I don't think it's a good idea to do it, but we're partners in
government," said Silver, who said he's willing to "listen" if an
"amicable solution" on the entire budget can be reached.

The Assembly planned to approve the revenue bill, and complete all of
its work on the budget. Speaker Silver says he does not plan on
bringing his members back later this summer unless there's a good