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by Jay Gallagher

Monday, March 29, 2010

Senate approves temporary spending bill

The Senate gave final passage to a bill this morning that will keep state government functioning through April 11 since there is now no chance a full budget will be adopted by the April 1 start of the new fiscal year.
Most senators quickly left the Capitol today and are not scheduled to return until a week from Wednesday. The Assembly left town Friday.
Most Republicans joined in with Democrats to pass the temporary spending bill that passed the Assembly last week and is all but guaranteed to be signed into law by the governor. The final vote was 54-6, with six Republicans voting no.
One of them was Joseph Griffo of Rome, Oneida County.
“There is an erosion of confidence,’’ he said. “Deadlines need to be met. It’s unacceptable. We should continue to meet.’’
The Democrats could not have passed the bill without Republican support, since Democrat Ruth Hassell-Thompson of Mt. Vernon, who has a history of heart problems and was taken to the hospital last week, was not in the chamber this morning, and without her the Dems have only 31 votes - one shy of a majority.
The lawmakers also passed, with a little more trouble, a bill that will allow teachers to retire as young as 55 without penalty during a three-month period this year if they have 25 years on the job. Otherwise they would have to wait until 62 or get a smaller pension.
This provision was part of a deal that helped to buy the support of New York State United Teachers last fall for support of a bill that diminishes the pensions of newly hired teachers and other public workers. The vote on today’s bill, which has already passed the Assembly, was 49-11.
No word on how much the provision will cost taxpayers.
There was no progress reported after a weekend of talks on an overall budget. How much to cut school aid and health care and whether to borrow money for operating expenses are among the outstanding issues.
In another budget matter, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, Ontario Colunty, has suggested that Gov. Paterson have a sincere, frank discussion with public-employee unions about the state’s dire fiscal straits.
So far unions have rejected any suggestion they put off raises, scheduled to go into effect as early as next week, that will cost taxpayers $3 billion a year, according to an analysis done by the Empire Center. Contracts are contracts, they say.

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