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No, Give US a Break

July 8, 2010

We were waiting for the dust to settle before weighing in on the still unresolved budget situation. Now that the governor has issued his vetoes, it would seem to be the right moment to try to determine where things stand. 

Let’s start with the Assembly. Members believe they’ve done the right thing. They passed all the budget bills. They say they’ve done their job, and that it’s now up to the Senate to act. (The Senate couldn’t muster the votes to approve the last bill – the revenue bill – and adjourned without taking it up.) 

Assembly members and staff are actually quite down on their Senate colleagues, whom they regard as amateurish and generally acting without much political sense. There’s also the not-insignificant matter of paychecks. Lawmakers in both houses won’t get paid until the Senate passes the revenue bill. 

In the Senate, there’s a pervasive “Aw, come on, give us a break” sentiment. What senators say in candid moments to their Assembly counterparts is: “We want to get paid, too, but you try governing with a margin as narrow as ours.” 

Until quite recently, many Senators believed it was possible to reopen the negotiations on the revenue bill and add items that could help strengthen the Senate majority heading into the fall elections.  Most notably, Sen. Bill Stachowski was telling people he wouldn’t vote for the revenue bill unless it was amended to include a measure that allows SUNY-Buffalo to set its own tuition rates.  “Stach” is probably the most vulnerable member of the house and appears to be staking his career on this matter.   

Assembly leadership insists SUNY Flex is a dead issue for now. They say they aren’t adding it or anything else to the revenue bill.

And then there’s the Governor, who is feeling pretty good about himself these days. In this regard, he’s convinced that his hard-line budget stance is restoring his credibility and popularity. There’ll be a poll out early next week to determine whether this is true or not. Meantime, Paterson and his people continue the tough talk toward the lawmakers. Our NT2 group is split in its response to Paterson’s posture. Some believe he’s finally found his stride. Others see a kind of petulant payback in what he’s doing. Perhaps it’s both. 

Adding to the uncertainty is the Cuomo-inspired move to decertify Sen. Pedro Espada as a member of the Democratic Party. As noted in previous posts, we understand and applaud Cuomo’s desire to set higher ethical standards for the party, but the move raises questions about precedents and fairness, and would also appear to further jeopardize the Democrats’ tenuous control of the Senate. 

Our Capitol sources tell us that the Senate Majority wants to return July 13, 14 or 19 to finish the session, but the question remains: Will there be enough votes to pass the revenue bill?

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