ALBANY - Gov. David A. Paterson Thursday predicted "anarchy in the streets" if state government shuts down on Monday, but legislative leaders vowed to win passage of the emergency spending bills to prevent that.
In the closely divided State Senate, one of two Democrats who promised to oppose the bills said he now would support them, at least once more. The Republican minority also released its suggested cuts to Medicaid, mental health and human services, saying if they were included in the bills some GOP senators may vote "yes."
Meanwhile, lawmakers and fiscal experts questioned the immediate impact of the emergency bills' defeat. They noted the state comptroller already has permission to pay salaries of about half the state workforce and make payments for health care services.
Paterson, who has wide latitude over state agencies, will determine the severity of a closure, they said. State commissioners have been ordered to make contingency plans.
In radio interviews, the governor described an apocalyptic world without Albany. "It means you aren't paying police, you aren't paying firefighters . . . the prisons will be in chaos," he told WBEN in Buffalo. "You could have anarchy, literally, in the streets, when the government shuts down."
However, leaders of the legislature's Democratic majorities rejected this doomsday scenario.
"All of our colleagues understand the importance of government continuing to operate," said Senate chief John Sampson of Brooklyn. "I don't believe government will be shut down."
The specter of state operations being suspended, which would be a first for New York, was raised after Espada and Diaz said they wouldn't back another batch of emergency bills. The duo reluctantly approved this week's measures, which included $775 million in cuts and savings to health care.
But Thursday Espada told Newsday he had been given "assurances" by Sampson that a budget deal is close and deep spending cuts will not be included in Monday's bills. "I can now vote, 'yes,' " he said.
Diaz said he still opposed the bills.
Paterson's budget office forecast closure of parks and campgrounds, suspension of jobless benefits and the lottery, and no paychecks for 153,000 workers.
Fiscal experts also were skeptical that this would come to pass. "It's not going to happen," said E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center for New York State Policy. "This is hyperbole."