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State Senate approves emergency spending bill

ALBANY - New York's Senate gave final approval yesterday to emergency spending that will keep state government running. Then senators joined Assembly members on their Passover-Easter vacation for the next eight days, leaving the state without a completed budget when the new fiscal year begins Thursday.

The Democrat-led Assembly passed the bill Friday and, like the Senate, isn't scheduled to return until April 7.

"Deadlines need to be abided by and met," Oneida County Republican Sen. Joseph Griffo said from the Senate floor during the brief session on what was to have been the first day of the break.

Senate Democrats bristled at such Republican attacks. Democrats calculated that before they took the majority in 2008, the Republican-led Senate was a partner in 10 late budgets in 12 years, for a total of 819 days past due, often requiring costly borrowing by schools, local governments and nonprofit social service agencies.

"It's not a failure, because an on-time budget doesn't mean a good budget," said Senate Conference Leader John Sampson, a Brooklyn Democrat. "You want a good budget that doesn't raise taxes, has property tax relief, and shows investment in health and education."

Albany has met its budget deadline just six times since 1975.

Gov. David A. Paterson forced lawmakers to accept or reject what he calls a "bare-bones" emergency spending bill, which pays for only legally mandated spending such as Medicaid health insurance for the poor and state worker salaries. Paterson said the bill will not keep full funding flowing to schools, hospitals and other areas, which will mean savings for the state as it faces a $9.2-billion deficit. The resulting pain for schools and local governments usually prompts loud complaints to lawmakers by voters and local officials.

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