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Dems blast Paterson vetoes

Queens Democrats criticized Gov. David Paterson’s decision to veto much of the budget passed nearly three months after it was due by the state Legislature Monday, saying it could be a particularly bad blow for borough schools.

But state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) slammed the Democrats’ budget, calling it a “mess.”

Paterson vetoed the legislators’ decision to restore more than $600 million in school aid because he said the lawmakers’ $136 billion budget was $400 million to $1.5 billion out of balance, but borough Democrats said bills they expected to pass by Thursday would raise $950 million in revenue through various taxes and fees.

The state Assembly overwhelmingly passed the budget Monday, and it made it through the state Senate by a narrow margin. The budget had been due April 1, but lawmakers and the governor have been wrangling for months over how to address a gaping budget hole. Paterson told legislators Friday he would begin implementing his own budget if lawmakers did not pass a budget by Monday.

“The governor’s posture is it’s his way or the highway,” Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) said. “We still consider educating our kids, whether it’s elementary school, high school or college a priority and it’s regrettable the governor could not meet us even halfway.”

Paterson is expected to veto thousands of additions legislators made to his original budget. The governor has already vetoed the restoration of more than $600 million to the governor’s $1.3 billion cut to education aid, a restoration of $56 million to community colleges and a measure reducing Paterson’s cut to city school aid from $467 million to $258 million.

“New York state does not have a budget because for the last three months the Legislature has refused to act on my proposals,” Paterson said. “When they were finally confronted with reality, rather than act in the interest of the people of New York state they have engaged in legislation that is in their self-interest and have presented us with a series of bills with the same gimmicks, chicanery and avoidant ´╗┐conduct that has characterized fiscal management in this state for far too long.”

Padavan also criticized the budget and said the Senate Democrats “don’t know what the hell they’re doing.”

“All in all, [the budget is] a mess, which is why I voted against it and why the governor vetoed it,” he said.

Padavan said the state could have saved money if it had reduced Medicaid spending, which accounts for $52 billion of the state budget.

“The entire budget scenario is a disgrace and an outrage,” Padavan said.

Legislators said Paterson’s rejection of their budget could result in teacher layoffs in the city and a loss of school programs.

“The money has to come from somewhere, and we’ll see it in Queens in the form of larger class sizes, less programming for students and missing an opportunity for another generation of students to get the education they deserve,” Lancman said.

Legislators, including Lancman and Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), said the Assembly has the votes to override Paterson’s vetoes, but said it is doubtful the Senate will be able to come up with the two-thirds support it needs for an override.

“We never got to discuss the budget,” Addabbo said. “It was what the governor wanted. The process has to change. This is a bad course that Albany once again is going down.”

Addabbo said the Senate’s revenue package includes the year-long suspension of the state sales tax exemption on clothing under $100, which is projected to generate $300 million for the state’s coffers. He added there will be no soda or mortgage tax.

State Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) said the legislature’s budget was preferable to approving Paterson’s budget carte blanche.

“If the Senate and Assembly can agree on a budget that’s balanced and reflected the priorities of the legislature, we thought that was preferable to taking the governor’s budget,” Weprin said.

State Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) too said he agreed with their budget.

“Throughout this challenging budget process, I have fought to protect our children’s schools, keep SUNY and CUNY affordable and promote better public health,” Hevesi said. “While we have substantially achieved these goals, the tough times are not over yet and I will continue to fight for our community in Albany.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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