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'One State Senator’s Obstruction Could Bring Down the State Government'

Friday, June 11, 2010

If you haven't noticed the lack of a state budget, it's because lawmakers have quietly been passing week-to-week agreements in order to keep the doors open and lights on. So far, it's been working.

But two Democratic lawmakers crucial to passing these agreements say they may vote against the them to protest cuts the governor recently slipped into them. 

"That means people who get checks from the state, not just employees but doctors for Medicaid, supplies that have to be bought, they won’t be bought," says Ed Koch, former mayor of New York City. He says the impact of a state government shutdown could, theoretically, be felt far and wide. 

Lawmakers aren't allowed to change the weekly proposals the governor submits to them, so they have a simple choice. Pass the budget they don't like, or let the government shut down after Monday.

But Koch says it's not likely to happen.

"Because they’ll be held responsible for the fact that nobody gets paid, and I don’t think they want that," he says.

But all it takes is one vote to lock the statehouse.

Dick Dadey, executive director of the government watchdog group Citizens Union, says it underscores the problem of being in the majority with no votes to spare.

"With the Republican state Senators standing unified in their opposition, the vote of every Democratic Senator is needed to keep the state functioning. And so, one state Senator’s obstruction could bring down the state government."

One of those Senators is Pedro Espada of the Bronx. He claims he's holding out because Gov. David Paterson slipped into the last bill major cuts in health care spending and there's no way Espada supports that. So he puts the blame on Paterson.

"No one, other than the governor, was pushing the button towards stopping government operations," Espada says.

(Paterson blamed legislators for the deadlock during an appearance on The Brian Lehrer Show on Thursday.)

Espada says this will be resolved. Lawmakers will work through the weekend to come up with a deal, despite plans by many of them to attend the Puerto Rican Day parade on Sunday and other events.

Dennis Herrara, a Manhattan construction worker, seemed fed up with the whole process.

"There’s too much politics in politics, that’s why I don’t like to get mixed up in that mess," he says. "There is yet to be somebody who comes and makes a difference in my opinion."

The next vote is expected on Monday.

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