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Albany operating on bare bones budget extender

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State workers won't get raises, and construction projects are still idle, but New York lawmakers didn't have much choice but to adopt Gov. Paterson's stripped-down budget extension yesterday. The alternative was a government shutdown. The governor wants to keep the pressure on lawmakers to pass a new budget soon. "You just can't keep hesitating or dithering or just ignoring the fact that the state is in dire financial straits," he said. Karen DeWitt has the story.

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Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

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The New York State legislature voted to keep the state running for another week, as the state enters its second week without a budget. Governor Paterson's stripped down spending extender does not include money for scheduled state worker pay raises, or road and bridge repairs.

The second spending extender since the April 1 deadline was missed contains just the bare essentials to keep the state running for another week. Unionized state workers, who were expecting a 4% raise in this week's paycheck, will not be getting their salary increases, road and bridge repairs that were to begin in the spring construction season have been postponed, and state parks that were slated for closure under Governor Paterson's plan cannot open bathrooms or mow the grass.

State lawmakers have little choice but to pass the measures, or risk a government shut down.

Paterson's budget director, Robert Megna, says if the administration were to present "business as usual" spending extenders that funded everything in state government, it would be harder to get the legislature to buckle down to serious negotiations over budget cuts.

"There's no impetus to get a budget solved," Megna said.

Governor Paterson, speaking in Cortland, where he announced that the New York Jets will continue it's training camp there, said he plans to talk with legislative leaders, but does not see them making the commitment right now to make the tough choices to close the $9 billion dollar gap.

"You just can't keep hesitating or dithering or just ignoring the fact that the state is in dire financial straits," said Paterson.

Paterson says he's against a plan supported by the Assembly to borrow $2 billion dollars, first proposed by Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch.

In addition to withholding the pay raises from state worker unions and delaying road and bridge repair projects, Governor Paterson has also withheld a $2 billion dollar payment due to schools, citing a lack of money.

The New York State School Boards Association finds that many school districts are continuing to draw down their rainy day fund reserve accounts, some are borrowing money and some have simply frozen spending. School boards spokesman Dave Albert says Paterson's withholding of the funds will just end up costing taxpayers more money.

"Is this simply passing on taxes from the state to the local level?" Albert asked.

Albert says the funding delay will also make it difficult for schools to accurately write their budgets for the next school year, which will be voted on May 18th.

Another $2 billion dollar school aid payment is due in June, and Paterson and his budget director Megna have already said it might be hard to meet that payment, as well, and that the school aid payments may have to be spread out over several months. Albert says if the state doesn't find the money, school children and their families will notice the difference come September, with fewer teachers, larger class sizes, and cuts to sports and other extra curricular activities.

The new spending extenders will keep the state running through April 18th.

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