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Joan Gralla of our Albany bureau filed of this atmospheric snapshot from the woozy wee hours in the state Legisalture. Here it is, a bit late, for entertainment’s sake:
New York State senators latched onto kumquats — a small bitter orange fruit grown mainly in California and Florida — to convey their objections to various aspects of the $136 billion budget they enacted a couple of hours before dawn on Wednesday.
Sen. George S. Latimer, a Westchester Democrat, was the first to bring the little citrus fruit, which is eaten skin and all, into the debate.
He compared the budget bill to a gift basket that contained likable items, like cookies, with unlikeable ones, such as kumquats.
The kumquat metaphor drew bipartisan support though Sen. Michael H. Ranzenhofer, (R-Amherst) was less committed than some of his peers to the analogy.
“Whether you believe it’s a grapefruit or a kumquat, it really doesn’t matter,” he said.
Sen. Kathleen A. Marchione (R-Halfmoon), however, was one of around 10 senators who seized on the kumquat theme.
She has repeatedly called for overturning the state’s new gun control law, and referred to that measure as a kumquat during the debate.
Sen. Gustavo Rivera, a Bronx Democrat, criticized the new budget for the fiscal year that starts April 1 for giving tax credits to employers who hire minimum wage workers from 16 to 19 years old who are students.
“It’s a bag full of kumquats, and ladies and gentlemen, I do not like kumquats,” he said.
Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Queens) agreed, saying the tax credit gave employers an incentive to discharge workers once they turn 20.
“We’re paying Walmart to fire people,” he said.
Even senators who were unfamiliar with kumquats latched onto the metaphor.
Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens), in bashing the minimum wage tax credit, said: “I didn't know what a kumquat was until tonight; I looked it up. I don't know why there's so much hostility to it but if we're going to go with that assumption that a kumquat is a bad thing, this is a big kumquat in that revenue bill.“
Rivera echoed that line of attack, saying: “It’s probably slipping on a kumquat and falling down a hole or something . . .giving companies an incentive to fire people.”
The new budget, which the assembly plans to approve on Thursday, gives $350 rebates to families who have children and whose annual incomes run from $40,000 to $300,000.
And the minimum wage, currently $7.25 an hour, will be raised to $9 over three years.
Peralta equated the failure to offer immigrant students state-funded tuition aid to telling them: “We’re sorry but we spent that on a middle-class tax break; we’ll help them get a job at McDonalds but not to become . . . an engineer.”
Sen. Terry W. Gipson, a Hudson Valley Democrat, was one of a few senators who preferred to express his criticisms with vampire analogies.
Lambasting the senate’s decision to debate and vote on a new budget when the public was asleep, he said:
“This is a vampire bill; I believe we can do better.” Gipson noted he has proposed a measure that would ban legislators from voting on bills from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.
Criticizing the minimum wage hike, he added: “The vampires my colleagues have talked about have sucked the blood out of the minimum wage.”
Gipson stayed true to his vampire analogy with other attacks.
Objecting to the $90 million cut in programs for individuals who are developmentally disabled, he said: “We are really are driving a stake through families.”
Sen. James Sanders, Jr. (D-Queens) also adopted the vampire theme.
“It appears that the vampires my colleagues have talked about have sucked the blood out of the minimum wage,” he said.