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Paterson budget agenda faces determined opposition

ALBANY - Gov. David A. Paterson has set an ambitious agenda for Wednesday's special legislative session, though a property tax cap, wine sales in grocery stores and taxing sugary beverages face determined opposition.

Paterson aides Sunday identified 10 bills the governor wants action on during the 6 p.m. session. Two of the measures would complete the $134.4-billion budget, which is 117 days late.

Disclosure of the special session agenda came before today's expected negotiations between Paterson, a Democrat, and leaders of the legislature's Democratic majorities. State Senate chief John Sampson of Brooklyn has served as mediator because of strained relations between Paterson and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver of Manhattan.

Gubernatorial aide Morgan Hook cautioned that while talks are under way, Paterson "is not negotiating in the sense of horse-trading to accomplish his policy agenda."

Lawmakers left the Capitol July 1 after adjourning the regular six-month session.

Finishing the budget remains the top priority. But three Democratic senators, including Brian X. Foley of Blue Point, have made support of a $900-million revenue bill contingent on passage of Paterson's plan for greater freedom for SUNY and CUNY to set tuition rates. Assembly Democrats oppose the initiative, saying it will make higher education unaffordable.

Sampson Sunday welcomed the agenda. "To give New York a budget that works for our people we have to work together," he said, citing his talks with Silver and Paterson.

Sisa Moyo, a spokeswoman for Silver, noted the Assembly passed the final budget bill July 1. "Our goal is to bring all issues to resolution."

Despite polls showing widespread support, a 4-percent cap on yearly increases in property taxes faces staunch opposition in the Assembly. The Senate has twice adopted the cap.

Neither house likes Paterson's proposals to tax sugary beverages to fund obesity programs and permit wine sales in supermarkets.

However, there's some agreement on amending a new law so homeowners don't pay a 40-cents per gallon tax for low-sulfur heating oil, beginning July 2012.

Governor's to-do list

Gov. David A Paterson wants lawmakers to approve 10 bills when they reconvene in special session at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The legislation would do the following:

    Complete this year's $134.4-billion budget by raising about $900 million in taxes.

  • Cap at 4 percent yearly increases in property taxes from school districts and other local governments.
  • Empower SUNY and CUNY to set tuition rates and increase Tuition Assistance Program grants.
  • Establish a contingency plan should New York not receive $1-billion in Medicaid funds from Washington.
  • Revamp the Power for Jobs economic development program.
  • Tax sugary beverages.
  • Allow sale of wine in grocery stores.
  • Forbid a tax on low-sulfur heating oil to be passed along to homeowners.
  • Delay until May 1, 2011 implementation of a ban on illegal hotels in New York City.
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