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Assembly Approved $2.8 Billion In Cuts; Not Enough, Says Governor

The state Legislature will enact $2.8 billion in budget cuts by day’s end, a massive amount of money that is still not enough to fill the mid-year deficit of more than $3 billion.

The state Assembly stayed up all night to finalize its package of cuts. The Senate quit for the night last evening and said it would take up the Assembly measures Wednesday morning.

Most of the cuts have already been made. Gov. David Paterson got fed up with waiting for the Legislature to make cuts, so he ordered state agencies to give back nearly half a billion dollars and took money from other accounts.

The Legislature opposed Paterson’s call to cut school aid in the middle of the year. That would have forced school districts to use reserve funds to make up for what they had been told the state would provide this year. Many districts have been putting money into their reserves ahead of a sharp two year increase in school contributions to the state worker retirement funds, which begin with the next budget year.

School aid cuts are not in the Legislature’s package. However, Paterson plans to take $391 million in federal stimulus funds that had been set aside for school districts for next year and use it elsewhere this year. If that happens, districts will be affected. Stimulus funds were used to preserve jobs that would have been lost otherwise. The Fulton school district, for example, recently said that federal stimulus funds preserved more than 60 jobs this year.

Gov. Paterson also intends to delay payments to local governments and schools as a way to put more money into the state’s general fund.

Assemblyman Will Barclay (R-Pulaski) voted against the budget cutting package. In a statement, he said, “While I agreed that cuts needed to be made, I voted against this plan because it did not properly solve the budget deficit. There were many ways we could have closed this mid-year gap without having to use financial gimmicks and borrow from federal funds allocated for next year’s budget.”

The Assembly also approved a proposal to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, 86-51. The state’s website has not yet posted the individual votes on the measure, but the last time it was voted on, Assemblymen Barclay, Robert Oaks and David Townsend voted no, while Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava voted yes. All represent a portion of Oswego County.

The measure will be sent to the Senate, which could vote today. Passage is not certain, as several of the Democrats who make up the chamber’s small majority are opposed to it. It will need Republican votes to pass.