Malcolm Smith Confident He’ll Negotiate, Not Sure What For

ALBANY—Not to be left out, State Senator Malcolm Smith held something of an ad hoc availability for the press this afternoon to respond to David Paterson's proposed budget–even as leadership of the new Democratic majority is still unclear. 

Smith insisted that, regarding the budget, "everything is on the table."

He was then asked what impact the ongoing struggle for Senate leadership will have on budget negotiations.

"I don't think it will be an issue. We'll be ready to go in January," he said. Both Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver earlier today called for bipartisan hearings on the spending plan, which Smith said he would support. "Our members are looking at rules reform right now," he said.

He did indicate that some of the members of his conference have already expressed concern about the proposed elimination of the STAR tax rebate.

He was asked what chances the governor's proposal had, and said only, "I would wager that we will cut spending."

At his press conference this morning, Paterson said of the murky leadership situation, "Frankly, they can all be in the room." He added, "Perhaps their response to a crisis will be a better indication of who should be the leader."

Speaking with reporters at a separate press conference this morning, Dean Skelos was asked if he thinks he will be in the majority in January.

"I love this room,"  Skelos replied. "It's so comfortable to meet. Isn't it cozy here? We have such a cozy room, and I know you're used to coming to speak with me here, so let's be optimistic."

CORRECTED from an earlier version. Malcolm Smith Confident He’ll Negotiate, Not Sure What For