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The Democrats met for several more minutes behind closed doors after the GOP leaders left. Afterward Senate leader John Sampson, along with assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, said they are more optimistic. "We're closer than we ever were before and hopefully with a couple more suggestions we'll be even closer and be able to finalize relatively soon," said Sampson.
Neither leader offered any details about spending cuts, new taxes, borrowing, or any potential action, saying there's no point in discussing the details until the proposals are vetted.
Speaker Silver says a budget agreement could come soon. "It could be ours, it could be theirs."
Governor David Paterson shot a hole in that rosy prediction. Senate Democrats have been saying they want property tax relief in the final budget. Paterson says he offered up a new plan to cap property taxes on all government entities except school districts as a compromise, but that it was not well received.
"This is my latest effort and they're talking about it but I'm not particularly optimistic about the way it went over," Paterson grumbled.
Much of the budget has already been approved in Paterson's weekly emergency extenders, but the remaining parts are the most controversial--how much money to give to schools, what kind of additional revenue or borrowing is necessary for newly-approved spending measures, how to close the $9.2 billion budget gap. Paterson has recommended a $1.4 billion dollar cut to school aid. Assembly Democrats want about half of that money restored. Speaker silver says he hasn't budged on that position. Paterson says if lawmakers want to restore the school aid, they have to determine a means to pay for it that the governor deems acceptable.
Silver was also asked about Governor Paterson's prior threats that if there's no budget agreement this week, he'll put the rest of his plan into the June 28th emergency extender bill and force lawmakers to pass the bill or shut down the government. Silver dismissed that deadline.
"First of all, there is no deadline," he asserted. "The deadline was April 1st. Obviously we didn't make that deadline. That's the only deadline I know."
Governor Paterson bristled when told about the speaker's answer. "Now maybe somebody thinks I'm playing around, maybe somebody thinks this is a game, maybe if you just keep saying something it'll come true. What I said is true," Paterson proclaimed.
Paterson accused the leaders of engaging in fantasy and making speculative statements. He said he's heard talk that they might be negotiating the budget next month.
"I heard people talking about being here July 4th. If they'd like to be here July 4th they can come by the mansion--we've got a nice fireworks demonstration every year, they can come and watch it. But there will be no discussion of the budget on July 4th because it will already have been dealt with June 28th."
Legislative leaders are not looking forward to any sort of showdown on Monday. They have so far lost every single round with the governor in the emergency spender battles. Speaker Silver says he does not intend to have to do another emergency spending bill this year and says he'll continue to try to win a budget agreement instead.