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Opinion

August 6, 2010

The late, ungreat New York state budget

Better late than never?

When it comes to New York state's budget, well, we're not absolutely sure.

About the only thing certain about the legislative circus that resulted Tuesday night in the Senate passage of a $136.5 billion budget is that it avoided setting a record for tardiness.

As it was, when the smoke (and mirrors) finally cleared, the budget was 125 days late, a scant eight days shy of the Aug. 11 record of shame established in 2004.

Were all this year's negotiations, hand-wringing, posturing and name-calling worth the result, which increases state spending by 2.4 percent?

That depends on your viewpoint.

With Democrats in control of the governor's mansion, the Senate and the Assembly, they certainly should have been able to get things done with more alacrity.

In a way, it's hard to argue with the statement Tuesday by Republican leader Sen. Dean Skelos after the final portion of the budget was passed, 32-28, without a single Republican vote.

"Today, Senate Democrats finished voting on a budget that raises taxes by nearly $4 billion," Skelos said. "Today's action also completes one of the latest budgets in state history. What did taxpayers get as a result? They got higher spending and more taxes, but not a single initiative to create any new jobs or improve New York's economy."

Of course, the Republicans _ reflecting the tactics of their party colleagues in Congress _ are anything but blameless. Even in the minority, they have a responsibility to help govern rather than to just say no to everything and then second-guess legislation passed by the Democrats.

Gov. David Paterson, for his part, seemed relieved to finally get the budget out of the way as he prepares to leave office at the first of the year.

"Today the state finalized a budget that closes a $9.2 billion budget gap," said Morgan Hook, Paterson's communications director. "This was done primarily through spending cuts and with no borrowing."

Hook, however, may be a bit too optimistic.

"A fiscally responsible budget," he said, "will help our state turn the corner on this economic crisis and put us on a path to recovery."

That, of course, is yet to be seen.

From a local standpoint, we are disappointed that a bill that would have given the State University system more control over how much it charges for tuition didn't even get to a vote.

The SUNY colleges in Oneonta, Delhi and Cobleskill and their students would have benefited from passage of the bill.

We hope it passes next year ... and not 125 days late.

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