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State legislators return to Albany amid continued budget uncertainty

State Senator Antoine Thompson
State Senator Antoine Thompson

By Mark Scott


Albany, NY – It's another day of confusion at the State Capitol in Albany. Both houses of the State Legislature returned for a special session. But it's uncertain what -- if any -- legislation will be passed.

State Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada was originally planning to boycott Tuesday's session but is now said to be returing to Albany.

There appears to be agreement among the Governor and legislative leaders on a contingency plan to deal with the possible loss of one billion dollars in Medicaid funding.

It's still not clear that Senate Democratic leader John Sampson has the necessary 32 votes to pass a final revenue bill that would complete the 2010-11 budget process. State Senator Antoine Thompson says there are a lot of competing interests out there holding up a final agreement.

"UB has been one of the issues. Another is fair housing for New York City. Some people want to see restoration of education aid," Thompson said. "Until we're on the floor with 32 votes, I'll just say we're working towards that."

As Thompson said, the SUNY empowerment bill the University at Buffalo is pushing for is perhaps the key issue. Fellow Democrat William Stachowski has said he won't vote for the revenue bill until he's assured of Legislature passage of a SUNY reform package that's suitable to UB.

On Monday's Capitol Pressroom, State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins -- a downstate Democrat -- said the part of the bill that would let individual campuses set their own tuition rates would disenfranchise students of color.

"Senator Stachowski has every right to support the changes that the Governor has put forward," Stewart-Cousins said. "But that's a starting point. There has to be flexibility on all sides."

The dispute over the late budget has set off a war of words between the Governor and Legislature. The New York Daily News Monday quoted an unnamed legislative official who said Governor Paterson is intentionally torpedoing the negotiations to embarrass lawmakers. But a source close to Paterson said he won't accept a weaker deal.