WXXI Local Stories
11:38 am
Wed March 28, 2007

Spitzer Releases Budget Details

Albany, New York – Governor Eliot Spitzer released details of a state budget agreement reached with the legislature, but said a lot remains to be resolved before the Saturday deadline.

Spitzer says he's agreed to spend more money than he originally wanted to, but for the sake of compromise acquiesced to some of the legislature's demands. He used one of his favorite metaphors in recent days to describe the process that led to the pact.

"You do not turn a battleship...inside a bath tub, it takes a bit more than one budget cycle to get us down to the spending levels we want," Spitzer said.

Legislative leaders say the total amount added to the governor's budget is $982 million dollars. Spitzer says he'd already agreed to $575 million dollars in additional revenue earlier this month, and he's agreed to pare down his property tax cut plan, so the increase is really in the $200 million dollar range. And he says what's important is that he retained many of the key changes he endorsed in his budget, including health care reductions that stem the rate of Medicaid increases.

"We have broken the back of the rate of increase of Medicaid spending," Spitzer said.

Spitzer says while $350 million dollars is being restored to hospitals, there will still be over $1 billion dollars in cuts from every part of the health care industry.

Spitzer agreed to add more money for Long Island schools. Republican Senators from Long Island felt their schools were shortchanged under Spitzer's new school aid formula, which gives more aid to poorer schools over time than richer schools.

The governor also conceded on the method for distributing a property tax cut. It will now be sent out as rebate checks, as the Senate had desired.

As Spitzer and the legislature raced toward the budget deadline, Legislative leaders held their first joint conference committee meeting of the year, just three days before the spending plan is due.

Republican State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, who fought with Spitzer bitterly over budget differences in recent weeks, says the time for talk is over.

"The time now for rhetoric and whatever else that we like to do in this business is pretty well over," said Bruno. "Everybody is going to have to be concise and direct and bottom-line oriented if we are going to get a result."

Bruno, along with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and the other leaders, say they hope they can pass budget bills on Saturday, and make the March 31 deadline.

There are still a number of outstanding issues in the budget, including whether to expand the state's bottle law, funding for stem cell research, the expansion of charter schools, and legislative member items.