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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

NY's dominant Democrats divided on deficits

The state's widely publicized "shutdown" threat intensifies a battle within Albany's dominant party.

On one side, anxious Democrats yearn to be seen as relieving taxpayer distress.

But other Democrats, perhaps more secure in their seats, cast themselves as saviors of popular programs.

Gov. David A. Paterson, Democrat, is trying to close severe deficits by forcing lawmakers in "emergency" budget bills to choose between big expense cuts or stopping state government dead in its tracks.

Backing Paterson on this, Democrat Andrew Cuomo appears destined, if elected governor, for a collision course with state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan).

Stuck between Paterson and Silver's 71 percent Democratic majority is the State Senate, where Democrats have a minimal 32-30 edge. Every Dem has a veto, as long as Sen. Dean Skelos' Republicans decline to play. That's why state Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs has talked of growing the conference into a "real" majority.

In this context, a clash erupted last week between Silver and Sen. Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington) over a long-proposed cap on property taxes.

Silver, resistant, said in a televised interview: "Especially in Senator Johnson's area, where people can afford it, people want to pay more to educate their children. They want to give their children the greatest tools available and I don't know why Senator Johnson would want to stop that from happening." Johnson stated: "Long Island's 3 million residents need property tax relief, not patronizing lectures."

Silver told Newsday's James T. Madore: "I believe in property tax relief. I think we are a state that has, many parts of the state have, high property taxes." But "it's not part of anybody's fiscal plan right now," he said. "I think we have to deal with the fiscal crisis now and put in place a long-term plan to deal with it."

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