With Budget 48 Days Overdue, Paterson Ups Threats to Pols

New York Gov. David Paterson says he may force lawmakers to skip their state political conventions to craft and pass a state budget that's now 48 days overdue.

Paterson says he may also continue to operate the state on weekly bare-bones spending measures throughout the year if necessary. The emergency bills authorizing that spending put lawmakers in a bind because the law requires them to accept what the governor sends them or shut down government.

The Democratic governor also asked legislative leaders to start conference committees. That would involve rank-and-file lawmakers in public meetings to hash out the budget rather than just leaders in closed-door meetings.

The state faces a $9 billion deficit.

The leaders met Tuesday and agreed there has been little progress since the budget was due April 1.

 Paterson said Monday he may have to lay off state workers because of a fiscal crisis that he predicts will also lead to the defeat of many local school budgets Tuesday.

With private negotiations stalled and the possibility of one of the latest budgets in years, Paterson called Tuesday's first public leaders' meeting in months.

"I think we have a better framework of understanding where we have to be," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, after private talks with Paterson and the Senate leader over the weekend. "Time is of the essence."

A lack of a 2010-11 budget that was due April 1 has delayed payments to schools and funding for state construction projects, local governments and nonprofit groups that carry out social services. Now the Legislature appears unwilling to change state law to allow Paterson to miss a June 1 deadline for paying billions of state aid to public schools. Paterson proposed delaying the payments until the end of June, a critical time for school payrolls.

"We're talking about laying off (and) furloughing workers," Paterson said Monday. He spoke at the opening of a new park in New York City even as he cuts services at most upstate parks and closes some to cut expenses.

Paterson said there's no plan yet for layoffs, but there is talk in his administration.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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