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Albany lawmakers go home no closer to budget deal

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New York State's budget is now two weeks late. Lawmakers are scheduled to return to session Monday, but the governor and legislative leaders appear no closer to an agreement on a new spending plan than when they broke for vacation a few days before the April 1 deadline.

They're still billions of dollars apart in figuring out how to close the $9.2 billion deficit. And as Karen DeWitt reports, there was renewed finger-pointing as they left Albany yesterday.

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Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

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The Senate and Assembly were scheduled to meet through Wednesday this week. Governor Paterson asked the legislature to remain in Albany longer, to try to work with him to resolve the budget stalemate.

"We're going to have to exert a greater effort to get this budget done," said Paterson. "It's going to require a little more effort form the legislators, and I'm going to ask them for it."

Majority Party Legislative Leaders, following a brief private meeting with the governor, refused. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says it would not be productive to remain in session, when there's no budget agreement.

"Doing bills at this point that are not relevant to the budget really doesn't serve any purpose," said Silver.

Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson agrees.

"I'm not going to increase more expenses on the state by keeping my members here," said Sampson. Legislators receive per diem expenses for food and lodging for each day that they remain in Albany.

But Silver and Sampson say their staffs are continuing to work on non session days and through weekends, and keep that up until the budget is done.

The legislature and governor are still $3.2 billion dollars apart, in their discussions on how to close an over $9 billion dollar deficit. The Senate and Assembly disagree over a proposal to borrow $2 billion dollars. The Assembly favors it, while Senate Democrats say they want to find more spending cuts first.

Speaker Silver says he's also waiting for the final numbers from the April 15th income tax collections, to see if any additional funds come in.

"Anybody who has any hope that there'd be more money showing up, will know yes, no, or maybe," said Silver. "We'll know that by Monday."

Meanwhile, as legislative business slowed to a crawl, internal fighting within the Senate continued over the issue of holding public conference committees to make budget decisions.

Senate Minority Party Republicans had been taunting Democrats for weeks about their failure to comply with a 2007 budget reform law that require open conference committees to be conducted. Democrats attempted to call the Republicans' bluff by announcing they would hold a conference committee meeting, and invited GOP Senators to attend. The Republicans did not show. Democratic Leader Sampson, and other democrats, condemned the GOP as "hypocrites", and called them the "party of no".

"The people of the State of New York are tired of elected officials who sit on the sidelines without producing real results," said Sampson. Republicans called the meeting, which did not include any Assemblymembers, a "charade", and said they would only attend real conference committees. Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos.

"We're not going to be part of a show to cover up for their inability, and the fact that they're incapable of leading," said Skelos. "Not going to do it."

And Senator Skelos says that Republicans, unlike the Democrats, agree with Governor Paterson and would be willing to stay at the Capitol indefinitely until the budget is done.

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