The battle of New York legislators’ inability to pass a state budget has come to a head with a possible shutdown of state government on Monday.
The fiscal year began April 1, but without agreement on a budget, the state government began passing a series of emergency bills to stay in operation, the New York Times reports.
But Republicans have put down a collective foot, voting against the last three emergency bills, claiming that they have not been included in budgetary discussion. Now two Democratic senators, Ruben Diaz Sr. and Pedro Espada Jr., have said they will join the GOP in voting against the bills that include spending cuts.
Then came the insults and verbal jabs that the New York Daily News compared to a vindictive, no-holds-barred wrestling match:
“‘We cannot let an unelected lame-duck governor that no one in the state wants to actually decide this [budget] by himself in a piecemeal fashion,” Espada said.
Then Espada went for the knockout by referring to Paterson’s despair over the ongoing attorney general probe of his contact with a domestic violence victim, (adding): ‘Rev. Diaz and I were the first ones to visit Gov. Paterson in his mansion when he was stretched out on a psychiatric sofa unable to lift himself to come to work.'”
Using no names, Paterson said he wasn’t going to “respond to threats, any thug activity” or “blackmail,” seemingly referring to threats to shutdown government by withholding their votes.
But Diaz apparently took the comments personally.
“The governor called me a thug,” he was quoted as saying. “When I pick a fight, I don’t go back. Let’s see what a thug can do.”
Paterson also criticized Senate GOP leader Dean Skelos, telling the New York Times:
“I’m shocked and I’m appalled. Sen. Skelos has told us that he and the Republican senators are going to shut down the government and they would shut down the government over something about meetings they haven’t been invited to and process issues.”
Skelos responded that any shutdown would be the faults of the Democrats who control both chambers, but allowed some room for negotiation if Paterson included some Republican budget cut suggestions in the next emergency bill.
Meanwhile, state officials are trying to figure out how a government shutdown — the first one in the state’s history — would play out.
If the emergency bills are not passed, the state would not have the ability to pay workers or even guarantee salaries in the future, the Time said. Administration officials are reportedly looking for legal means to continue funding essential public safety services, like prisons and the state police.