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New York Needs a Budget Now

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State Senate Majority Conference Leader John Sampson is arguably the most or at least the second-most powerful political figure in New York state. As such, Sampson should be held accountable for the shameful budget impasse in Albany.

The budget that was supposed to be completed by April 1 is now 60 days late. If there is a light at the end of this tunnel, we do not see it.

Every day we hear news of another painful cut related to the failure to pass a state budget. Senior centers will be closing all over the state. Some state parks will close. The city said it can no longer afford to pay for school nurses at parochial and other private schools, even though these nurses are required by law.

The governor said there is nothing he can do until the state Legislature sends a budget for his signature. But according to published reports, no progress is being made. The two sides are not even talking.

Shame on them. Once it became clear that the Legislature would not agree on a budget by April 1, the governor should have begun meeting behind closed doors with Sampson and Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos to iron out a deal everyone could live with.

These men should have treated the budget crisis as the emergency it is. But as far as we know, no such meetings are taking place. This is the governor’s failure. In a dramatic way he is showing once again that he cannot lead. But it is also Sampson’s failure. He may be new to the job of majority leader, but he knows the tough budget questions that divided the Democrats and Republicans cannot be resolved in open debate on the Senate floor.

The failure to deliver a budget on time is particularly painful to New York City, which cannot access the hundreds of millions of state tax dollars that city residents have paid.

Sen. Malcolm Smith embarrassed himself and his party earlier this month when he was caught bragging about his intention to “gerrymander” New York Republicans into “oblivion.” He can go a long way toward making up for that damage by getting Gov. David Paterson and Skelos into a room, locking the door and not coming out until they have a budget.

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