Lawmakers buckled Monday to Governor Paterson's emergency spending legislation that cut $775 million from New York's health care budget -- a move aimed at keeping the cash-strapped state government form shutting down.
In the Senate, the emergency budget bill passed along party lines, with all 32 Democrats voting for it and all Republicans present voting against. In the Assembly the package passed with the support of most Democrats.
Protesters said the health care cuts will close trauma centers, reduce care for the indigent and devastate already struggling nursing homes.
Moreover, the state will lose some federal matching funds.
Why such difficult choices? Because the budget is two months late and the balance sheet is about $10 billion off. And the governor said he had to force the Legislature to take action.
Sen. Pedro Espada Jr., a Bronx Democrat and the lawmaker at the center of a crippling coup in Albany last summer, told the Associated Press today that he will not vote to approve any more emergency spending bills.
Instead, he says he'll force the Senate leadership -- which he says has been out-negotiated in the budget process -- to work through the weekend to seal a deal with the Assembly and governor.
Paterson’s new strategy to put these seriously unpopular cuts into the weekly emergency budget extender bills that the state has been passing once a week for ten weeks since they missed the budget deadline worked.
These extender bills are what has kept he state government running without a budget.
Legislators either had to pass the bill or shut down government. Paterson administration sources said they wanted to avoid a statewide crisis.
In theory, the governor could pull this same trick once a week until the whole budget gets done, piecemeal.
He could do health care this week, education cuts next week, another subject the following week. And our sources are hinting that next week in addition to education cuts Paterson might include the soda tax -- which is very unpopular with the Legislature.