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Opinions vary on state budget

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State legislators passed a budget four months late and the response from Queens elected officials has ranged from lukewarm approval to outrage.

The budget, due April 1, has been approved in piecemeal, with the last portion — the state’s revenue package — passing last week on Aug. 3 and closing a $9.2 billion deficit the state faced.

Among the items making it into the budget was the suspension of the sales tax exemption for clothing under $100, which is expected to hit middle-class families hard. Legislators believe the suspension of the tax break will generate $300 million for the state.

“Gov. Paterson has spent the last eight months fighting for the fiscal health of New York on behalf of all New Yorkers,” spokesman Morgan Hook said. “A fiscally responsible budget will help our state turn the corner on this economic crisis and put us on a path to recovery.”

But state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) slammed the budget and said the state has added 124 different taxes and fees in the last two spending plans.

“The bottom line is it’s a disaster,” Padavan told a meeting of the Queens Village Republican Club last week.

Padavan, who voted against the budget, called the plan “a sham budget in many respects” because he said it taxes residents too much and relies heavily on revenue streams that are difficult to predict.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) said he did not understand why it took his colleagues four months to approve the plan, noting some of Paterson’s proposals to add revenue to the state, including a so-called soda tax and allowing wine to be sold in supermarkets, never made it through.

“Although it was a bad budget, it could’ve been a lot worse,” said Addabbo, who voted for the budget. “It was going to be a bad budget anyway.”

State Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) said the budget does not address all of the state’s problems.

“This year’s budget was an extremely difficult process and points to why it is critical that the state Legislature passes the reforms I’ve sponsored for years,” he said in a statement, referring to his calls for nonpartisan redistricting and campaign finance overhaul. “I am glad that we were able to minimize the damage to our schools, but moving forward we need to reform Albany, focus on green jobs and economic development and build New York’s fiscal base.”

Addabbo said he expects the suspension of the sales tax exemption to be lifted in 1 1/2 years.

Nonprofits that get all or a majority of their funding through member items will have to wait to receive the money after Paterson vetoed that portion of the budget.

Addabbo said he has senior centers in his district that are “on the cusp of closing their doors” because they have not received funding for this year.

The senator said Paterson’s cuts to health care were restored by the state Legislature, but those were also vetoed by the governor.

But Addabbo said some of the tax increases, including provisions dealing with taxes on charitable contributions made from people making $1 million a year or more, will not affect the majority of Queens residents.

Anna Gustafson contributed to this article.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 6:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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