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by Jay Gallagher

Monday, February 22, 2010

League worries about secret budget process


The Legislature is back at the Capitol today, budget hearings are mostly over but there is still no indication that the key decisions will be made in public, the League’s legislative director said today.
“The public has a right to know in this difficult budget season what is happening,’’ said Barbara Bartoletti.
The hole in Gov. David Paterson’s budget proposal, which he said was about $1.4 billion two weeks ago, may have grown further, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said today.
He said tax revenues are continuing to slip so that the hole even if all of Paterson’s proposals for tax hikes and spending cuts in areas like education, health care and parks are adopted by the Legislature, a further $2 billion deficit needs to me made up.
Lawmakers are supposed to agree on a new spending plan by April 1, but few at the Capitol expect a deal to be reached by then.
Beyond the bad news likely to be contained in whatever spending plan is finally adopted, Bartoletti said she fears that much of the key decisions will be made behind closed doors.
At least one event will be public: the annual revenue-forecast meeting among experts from the state Budget Division, the Legislature, the comptroller and investment firms will be held later this week, most likely Thursday (nothing official yet.)
Then by Monday, Paterson and lawmakers have to announce an agreement on how much they think the state will collect in revenues next year.
This requirement was adopted several years ago to stop the squabbling over the admittedly subjective nature of tax collections since they depend on what happens to the economy.
But after that talks typically go underground until there is a deal.

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