New York Gov. David Paterson talks to reporters about the...

New York Gov. David Paterson talks to reporters about the state budget at the Capitol in Albany. (June 23, 2010) Credit: AP

ALBANY - Hours after the State Legislature defied him in approving its own budget bills, Gov. David A. Paterson struck back last night by vetoing the additional spending.

He accused Democratic lawmakers of putting "self-interest" before "the interests of the people of New York" in writing and adopting the legislation. It restores $600 million of Paterson's proposed $1.5-billion in school aid cuts and reductions to SUNY and CUNY and public health programs.

Reflecting the sentiments of the legislature's Democratic majorities, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver of Manhattan said "The governor's decision to veto these bills will mean larger classes, higher property taxes and more expensive tuition for SUNY and CUNY students."

Silver and his State Senate counterpart were expected to consider overriding the governor's line-item vetoes, which total about 6,900 because they include lawmakers' pork-barrel grants to local charities. A two-thirds vote by both houses is required to override.

That shouldn't be difficult in the Assembly, where Democrats have a large majority. However, Republican votes will be needed in the Senate and party leaders were noncommittal before Paterson's move. None voted for the bills Monday afternoon.

"There are an enormous amount of taxes and fees in this budget and we've opposed them," Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) told Newsday. "You really have to look at the entirety of the budget before you make a decision as to whether you want to override or not."

Paterson said his vetoes would not result in the first shutdown of New York government in modern history because the legislature's bills included money for salaries and other operating expenses.

At a news conference in the Capitol last night, Paterson sat at a desk and struck out the school aid restoration using a rubber stamp, marked "VETO" in black letters.

"The only thing worse than no budget or a late budget is a budget that takes the finances of New Yorkers and puts them in jeopardy and we're not going to let that happen," he declared.

Austin Shafran, a spokesman for Senate Democrats, replied that in vetoing the additional school aid, the governor had eliminated $271 million in property tax relief for homeowners in school districts with reserve funds. "It's petty Albany politics at its worst with schoolchildren and property taxpayers caught in the middle," Shafran said of Paterson's action.

The legislature still plans to vote on a package of taxes and other revenue to pay for the aid restorations. Their plan relies on a two-year suspension of the sales-tax exemption on clothing and shoe purchases under $110, but rejects Paterson's push to sell wine in grocery stores and tax sugary beverages.

The budget bills passed comfortably in the Assembly. But in the Senate, proceedings were twice delayed when a couple of Democrats withheld support to extract concessions from Senate Democratic chief John Sampson of Brooklyn.

The legislature also refused Monday to consider Paterson's 13th set of emergency spending bills, instead passing its budget bills.

Sen. Brian X. Foley (D-Blue Point) joined Sen. William Stachowski (D-Buffalo) in holding up the Senate vote, to push for Paterson's plan giving SUNY and CUNY freedom to set tuition rates. Legislative leaders, primarily due to opposition from Assembly Democrats, have rejected the plan.

With Michael Amon

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