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Lawmakers plan to work through weekend on state budget

ALBANY - Legislative leaders vowed Friday to work through the weekend to bridge differences over a state budget, though prospects dimmed for meeting the April 1 adoption deadline.

State Sen. John Sampson of Brooklyn, the Democratic chief, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) insisted rank-and-file lawmakers would remain in the Capitol to participate in budget talks. However, some Assembly members and senators told Newsday they planned to be home Saturday and Sunday.

The Assembly on Friday night adopted spending bills, totaling $4.6 billion, to ensure state government keeps running early next month if a new budget isn't in place. The Senate didn't convene Friday and will take up the bills on Monday.

Both houses were scheduled to recess Friday for an 11-day break to mark the Passover and Easter holidays.

Asked if the Assembly would stay in Albany over the weekend, Silver told reporters, "I intend to . . . I'm staying around."

Under pressure from Senate Republicans about the secrecy surrounding budget deliberations, Sampson pushed for starting conference committees where lawmakers publicly attempt to reach compromise on divergent fiscal plans. These meetings have yet to occur, but Sampson, Silver and 12 others convened a public leaders' session Friday night. The last time such a meeting took place was 2008, though law requires it.

Senate Republicans noted there were no scheduled sessions for rank-and-file lawmakers to hash out differences on school aid, environmental protection and other areas. The leaders usually announce meeting times at this point in budget talks. "This is a bluff," said state Sen. Thomas Libous (R-Binghamton).

Sampson and Silver blamed Gov. David A. Paterson, saying talks couldn't occur until he sends an updated fiscal plan to the legislature. But Paterson aide Morgan Hook said there was nothing preventing the sessions.

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