With less than two weeks to go before setting the record for lateness in completing its budget, Democratic Governor David Paterson called the New York state legislature into special session on Wednesday in order to close the remaining $1.5 billion budget deficit.
The New York legislature has struggled for months to close the $9.2 billion budget gap, working well past the initial budget deadline of April 1st. In order to finish the budget and push his own initiatives, Gov. Paterson has vowed to continue to keep up the special sessions until the budget is done, even if it means pursuing court orders to enforce participation.
The Governor is pushing for a new tax on sugary drinks, tuition increases for state colleges, allowing grocery stores to sell wine, and property tax caps that have already been rejected by the Assembly.
On July 1, 2010, the New York State Assembly passed an alternative revenue measure to close the budget gap. The bill raises revenue primarily through suspending the sales tax exemption on clothes and footwear under $110 from October to March, deferring business tax credits, reducing itemized deductions for those with an adjusted gross income above $10 million, and by limiting the STAR property tax exemption program to those with incomes under $500,000.
The Senate, on the other hand, left for the July 4th holiday weekend without having passed the revenue part of the budget. The roadblock stopping the passage of the bill is two Democratic lawmakers who oppose the effort to allow state colleges to adjust their tuition. With the legislature back in session, Gov. Paterson is hoping the Senate will take a second look at proposals that have failed so far in the Assembly, using the divide to create a competing revenue proposal in the Senate that is closer to his plan. On Thursday, Gov. Paterson met with lawmakers to come up with a compromise on the issue of state college tuition in hopes of finally finishing the budget.
New York is not the only state stuck in budget gridlock. In California, legislators are going into their fifth week of the new fiscal year without a spending plan.
The organization New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness has put out a useful outline of the measures that the New York legislature should consider in dealing with the current budget gap and in making future budgets.