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April 16, 2003

Legislative leaders agree to spend $1.9 billion more; they are mum on how to pay for it

Legislative leaders have agreed to spend $1.9 billion more in 2003-2004 than Governor Pataki has proposed. They have not specified how they would pay for it, but a number of tax-increase proposals are reported under consideration.

The new spending would mainly be in education, health care, and higher education, a release from the Senate majority said. The details will be negotiated over the next 10 days with the goal of having the Legislature consider a full budget when it returns to Albany after a break of approximately 10 days.

"The leaders expressed their belief that they are addressing the urgent needs of the people of New York State and hope that the Governor would join them in this process before a final budget is concluded," the release said.

A final budget should also include agreement on additional revenue assistance for New York City "to address critical budget needs identified by Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council," the release said.

The Buffalo News, citing legislative sources, said new spending would include $700 million for public schools, $225 million for higher education programs, and $750 million for health care programs such as Medicaid. Other new funds would make pork-barrel spending possible, the report added.

Spokesmen for the Pataki administration criticized the announcement.

"It's outrageous that while the state is facing an $11.5 billion shortfall, the Legislature would propose nearly $2 billion in massive spending increases while refusing to say what they would spend the money on or how they intend to pay for it," a spokesman for the Governor told the Buffalo News.

The agreement further increases the possibility that the Legislature will approve a budget without the involvement of the Governor in the negotiations, challenging him to veto the extra spending and raising the possibility of a legislative override of such a veto.

The agreement to increase spending and, in all likelihood, increase taxes comes amid strong evidence from polls showing that New Yorkers prefer reduced government activity to higher taxes.

Several recent polls of New Yorkers show that the ongoing high-profile efforts of tax-and-spend advocates are not convincing New Yorkers that higher taxes are a good idea.