Senate Passes Budget; Restores Parks Money And Modifies Education Cuts

The New York State Senate approved a budget Monday night that will keep Fort Ontario open while changing the deep cuts to education proposed by Gov. David Paterson.

The $136 billion budget was approved 32-29. Senate leader John Sampson said the budget would close the $9 billion deficit, impose no new taxes and keep state spending below the rate of inflation.

Sampson called it “a fair, responsible, and bipartisan budget” that made “the smart cuts and tough choices New York can afford.”

Gov. Paterson praised the Senate’s proposal during an appearance in New York City, though he questioned where some of the money would come from to pay for the budget because the Senate left out his proposals for taxes on sugary drinks and to allow wine sales in grocery stores.

Republicans in the Senate blasted the budget:

“… their priorities are wrong, and their numbers don’t add up. The Democrats $135 billion budget increases spending without a way to pay for it. There are no structural reforms or long-term fixes to the state’s fiscal problems. It doesn’t do enough to provide property tax relief, does nothing to create jobs and will guarantee that next year’s budget deficit will be $3 billion greater than projected.

According to the New York Times:

Their plan would leave spending for state parks at levels high enough that none would have to be closed and it would avoid deep cuts to the State University of New York and City University of New York systems.

But the plan essentially accepts the governor’s proposed education cuts, though it would distribute them differently — a move that was greeted with surprise in the halls of the Capitol, where teachers’ unions and public school lobbyists have long wielded great influence.

The Senate’s adjustments to school aid were not immediately available.

Over the weekend, State Senator Darrel Aubertine told students from Hannibal Central School that he favored shifting money around within the budget to take some of the sting out of the deepest school aid cuts. Gov. Paterson had proposed an across-the-board cut of 5% of state aid for school districts. Aubertine said that hurt districts that are heavily dependent on state aid.

The Assembly now has to approve its version of a state budget. If it is not identical to the Senate’s budget, the two houses will negotiate a third version acceptable to both.

The deadline for a state budget is April 1, though state lawmakers often miss that deadline.

You can read the full Senate budget resolution here.