By JOE LoTEMPLIO, and CASEY RYAN VOCK
Staff Writer, Contributing Writer
ALBANY — All three lawmakers from the North Country voted Monday evening in opposition to the state's emergency spending bill.
The measure squeaked through the Senate, 34-27, and gained Assembly approval with ease.
Assemblywoman Janet Duprey opposed the extender bill because she said it shifted the burden for social-services programs to county government by reducing the state share of Child Welfare funding from 63.7 percent to 62 percent and shifting $4.6 million from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs.
The bill also reduces aid to mental-health inpatient capacity by 5 percent, for a $9 million state savings that moves the cost to hospitals that provide inpatient care to those who suffer with mental illness, she said.
"Although there are some program cuts, which may, in fact, help reduce state spending, simply cost shifting to county government and, in turn, to local real-property taxpayers is not the answer," Duprey said.
She also said Gov. David Paterson has addressed only the appropriation side of the budget since extender bills went into effect after the April 1 deadline.
"He has not included any revenue projections. Both income and expenses must be discussed to put together a budget, and this piecemeal process is not good government.
"It seems to be more apparent each week that the majorities will rely on more than a billion-dollar borrowing to operate the state's general fund," Duprey said.
Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward also was not happy with the extender bill.
"This is the 12th extender we have seen and the 12th time we have only the emergency spending bill and no corresponding revenue bill," Sayward said, adding that she has voted 'no' on all previous extender bills.
"We have no idea where the revenue will come from. What a way to budget. Perhaps I am wrong, but in previous years we established what you have to spend before you decide what you will spend it on."
Sen. Betty Little also opposed the bill, but she said she did so with confidence that the state government would not be shut down.
"I voted 'no' because I have been voting 'no' (to emergency spending bills) since the beginning of May," Little said late Monday night.
"I voted 'yes' in April, thinking they needed to get it onto the floor and out into the public. But when the first committee came around, and we had no progress whatsoever, I started to vote 'no.'"
Little said she could not support the spending bill, as she believes it will penalize many undeserved people throughout the state.
"The people that would be affected are not to blame for the fact that we don't have a budget."
Little said she could see that enough votes would be in favor of the extender to prevent state government from ceasing operations.
"I knew it would not shut down. I knew there was enough (votes) to keep it open."
The struggle to come to an agreement on a budget comes down to leadership at the state level, Little said.
"It's the role of the legislature to address the issues in the budget, work with the governor on the budget and come to an agreement as to what that budget would be."
So far, she said, that has not happened.
"Every week I hear that a budget will come forward, and it just doesn't happen. I hear we are making progress. I was told last week that it would be this week, but I haven't seen any signs of that yet. Maybe (today)."