ALBANY - Gov. David A. Paterson and lawmakers agreed Sunday to dump a requirement that motorists purchase new license plates but remained divided over how to close this year's $3.2-billion budget deficit.
In advance of today's protest here against the license plate mandate, Paterson formally announced a willingness to repeal the requirement subject to the legislature finding another way to raise $129 million in each of the next two fiscal years. He said alternative funding must be agreed to before mid-January when he unveils the 2010-11 budget.
Paterson initially backed off the $25 plate fee 10 days ago in Syracuse. Republican county clerks and state senators have launched petition drives, securing more than 100,000 signatures from across the state.
"When elected officials call for the elimination of revenue in [next year's] budget that is already $6.8 billion in the red without offering alternatives, it is simply not responsible," Paterson said Sunday. "If the legislature works with me . . . to identify real, recurring savings that will replace the revenue that would be lost, I will eliminate the new license requirement."
The mandate calls for motorists to get a new set of plates as their registration comes due, beginning April 1.
In a rare joint statement, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Assemb. Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua), the minority leader, said they would work to ensure the plate fee "will not go forward." Austin Shafran, a spokesman for the Senate's Democratic majority, said it supported repeal but opposed new taxes to make up the lost revenue.
The Senate's GOP minority has used the license plate fee to criticize this year's $131.8-billion budget. Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) introduced a bill nixing the plate mandate. "The problem is not that we tax too little, it is that we spend too much," he said.
Despite working over the weekend, negotiators for Paterson and legislative leaders still haven't reached agreement on the deficit. Paterson unveiled a plan a month ago but lawmakers have balked at midyear cuts to school aid and Medicaid.
"Legislators . . . are afraid of the special interests," the governor told Manhattan's WBLS-FM radio last night. He has ordered special sessions for Monday and Tuesday, and vowed to keep calling them until the deficit is closed.
Special session Agenda
Gov. David A. Paterson has ordered the State Legislature to reconvene todayMonday and tomorrowTuesday to consider seven bills.
Close $3.2-billion budget deficit
Cap state spending and use future budget surpluses to offset high school property taxes
Legalize same-sex marriage
Increase penalties for driving drunk with a minor in the vehicle
Establish pension tier for new state and local government employees
More oversight of public authorities
Create loan program to make properties more energy-efficient>>PHOTOS: Click here to see weird, funny and clever personalized license plates sent in by LIers