Espada Threatens to Stall Government Again

By Melissa Russo
|  Wednesday, Jun 9, 2010  |  Updated 2:07 PM EDT
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In Photos: Scenes From Albany

AP

FILE - In this file photo of June 10, 2009, Sen. Pedro Espada Jr., D-Bronx, holds a key for the locked state Senate Chamber in Albany, N.Y. One year ago, New York's Senate, the senior house, was in the chaos of a coup. Two dissidents from the five-month-old Democratic majority flipped to the Republicans who had held 30 of the chamber's 62 seats after the 2008 elections, after decades in charge. In a flash of parliamentary sleight of hand, the new coalition claimed control of the power and perks of the majority, even though Democrats called it illegal and didn't recognize the coalition. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)

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Espada Coup Take Two?

Bronx Senator Pedro Espada threatens to shut down state government, again, as lawmakers try to keep New York running without a budget deal.
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Sen. Pedro Espada, the man behind the coup that stymied state politics for more than a month one year ago, threatens to shut down state government again.

"I served notice I can not continue to honor my oath of office and vote for these unilateral actions in this manner because they hurt the people of the state of New York and they hurt my district," Espada said a day after reluctantly approving Paterson's $775 million in health care cuts.

For 10 weeks, emergency budget extender bills have kept the government running one week at a time. And the beleaguered Espada, who currently faces a series of civil and federal fraud-related probes, says next time the bill comes up, he may deprive the Democrats of the 32nd vote they'll need to keep the state running.

State government would effectively shut down as a result, since Republicans have also pledged to oppose future extender bills.

Today, Gov. David Paterson told Senate Republican Dean Skelos that he's not going to respond to "threats or thug activity" - a reference to Espada's threat to shut down government. 

Still, the threat prompted Paterson -- who described Espada and another senator aligned with him as "rogues" -- to change the next two upcoming weekly spending bills.
 
The one to be voted on a week from this coming Monday was set to include a cigarette tax increase and other measures to raise revenue, steps the GOP said it would vote against. Paterson now says neither of the next two bills will include tax increases and that one may include a Senate Republican proposal

Espada's latest pledge to not vote for the budget extenders comes one year after his notorious coup left the Senate frozen in an embarrassing stalemate last summer.

The Bronx pol tells the Associated Press he'll force the Senate leadership to work toward a budget deal.

Espada may also be trying to repair his image after Attorney General Andrew Cuomo charged him with stealing millions of tax dollars from the non-profit Bronx health clinic he runs.

Last summer's stalemate ended as it started 31 days earlier, with the freshman Democrat convulsing the 62-seat house by switching sides and getting a powerful leadership post in the majority.

Espada's return to the Democratic conference gives Democrats a 32-30 majority for the first time since the June 8 coup. As part of the deal, Espada took the title of Senate majority leader.

 

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