Gov. David Paterson delivered 6,681 veto messages to the legislature on Wednesday, slashing over $500 million in spending out of the state budget.
Several aides to the governor trudged up and down stairs in the Capitol, their arms laden with the two-foot-high stacks of documents, as they delivered the veto messages to the Senate and Assembly.
The governor had spent seven hours over a two-day period personally initialing or signing every single veto, even at one point providing a live web stream of the activity. Paterson’s communications director, Morgan Hook, says the actions are not a negotiating tactic.
“He is not negotiating on these vetoes,” said Hook. “They have been delivered, at this point, to the legislature.”
The $525 million in vetoed items include $419 million in school aid and several million in additional funds to colleges, universities and student aid programs as well as numerous individual member items requested by state lawmakers for their districts. They include money for museums, libraries and civic organizations.
Paterson still wants the legislature to approve a contingency plan if some federal Medicaid monies, known as FMAP, don’t come through, as well as a new plan for setting tuition at SUNY and CUNY and a property tax cap. His spokesman says the legislature should act on those items because they are the right things to do, not because they might get something in return, like member items.
The Senate also needs to complete the final budget bill, which would impose new taxes and fees, including a suspension of the clothing sales tax, before the spending plan can be declared complete. No time has been set for a return. Until then, state lawmakers will not receive their paychecks, which have been withheld since the budget deadline was missed on April 1. Hook says at this point, the governor is not calling a special session to try to force the Senate to complete its work, but has not ruled that out for the future.
Leaders of the legislature says they are “disappointed.” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, in a statement, says the governor “chose to renege on funding commitments” for groups that care for the children, elderly and crime victims, and did not spare the schools from "devastating cuts."