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State legislative chiefs: On-time budget possible

ALBANY - With lawmakers scheduled to break Friday for the Passover and Easter holidays, legislative leaders Thursday insisted a state budget could still be adopted by the April 1 deadline.

State Sen. John Sampson of Brooklyn, the Democratic chief, indicated his chamber may work beyond Friday's recess and possibly even reconvene during the 11-day vacation, if a budget pact is reached.

However, Assembly members said they were told by Speaker Sheldon Silver not to expect to return to the Capitol before April 7.

The legislative chiefs and Paterson didn't meet together Thursday, though one-on-one conversations occurred, sources said. Staffs for all three continued discussions on a 2010-11 budget, particularly on how to close the $9.2-billion deficit.

Leaders of the Republican minorities have largely been excluded from the private talks.

Silver (D-Manhattan) also said Thursday the lower chamber would pass a spending bill Friday so state government continues to operate in early April if a new budget isn't in place. Sampson wouldn't commit to passing the bill, but added, "We aren't shutting down state government."

There have only been two on-time budgets in the past 25 years.

Sampson said, "We're going to continue to work to absolutely the last minute."

Silver added, "I haven't given up on a timely budget."

Still, the budget plans adopted by the Senate and Assembly this week differ widely.

For example, the Senate endorsed Paterson's call to cut school aid by more than $1 billion while the Assembly restored $600 million. The Senate also rejected $2 billion in borrowing to lessen the severity of spending reductions while the Assembly embraced it.

Paterson said the $4.6-billion spending bill to keep Albany running only includes required payments for school aid, Medicaid, emergency services and salaries of state workers. Funding would stop for social services provided by counties and not-for-profits.

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