The Legislature is threatening to vie for the state record of budget futility, set in 2004 when a final budget was passed on Aug. 11.
Paterson’s call for lawmakers to return to Albany comes as he and lawmakers have yet to agree on how to close $9.2 billion budget gap and address another potential $1 billion shortfall if federal aid for Medicaid isn’t secured.
The session is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, and Paterson vowed to keep lawmakers in town until a deal is reached.
“Governor Paterson repeatedly has said that he will do everything in his power to protect New York’s fiscal health,” said spokesman Morgan Hook. “As it stands today, the state has no budget and no plan to address a $1 billion loss in federal support.”
Lawmakers left the Capitol in early July after failing to reach a compromise on the final pieces of the roughly $136 billion spending plan. The Assembly passed a package of revenue raisers to close the budget gap, but the Senate did not.
In the Senate, where Democrats hold a narrow 32-29 majority with one vacancy, some Democratic lawmakers have held out support for the budget until there is an agreement to give the state university system more autonomy to set tuition rates.
Paterson, meanwhile, has called on lawmakers to develop a contingency plan if the $1 billion in federal aid isn’t forthcoming.
Paterson can call special sessions of the Legislature, but he can’t compel them to act. As a result, the governor’s special sessions typically end with lawmakers simply gaveling in and out and taking no action.
Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, Ontario County, said the special sessions are pointless unless the Democratic governor and legislative leaders are in agreement on a final deal. Special sessions can cost taxpayers up to $100,000 a day in expenses to open the legislative chambers and pay lawmakers their daily stipends for being in town. Legislators receive $171 a day for meals and lodging when they are in town, plus travel expenses.
Gannett’s Albany Bureau reported last month that lawmakers accrued $1.2 million since April 1 for their daily expenses to come to Albany.
“He can’t make the two majorities take up any legislation,” Kolb said. “ So all he’s doing is wasting a lot of taxpayers’ money.”
But lawmakers may be more eager to get the deal done: They haven’t been paid since April 1. Under state law, they are not paid while the budget is late.