Dean Skelos, New Champion of the Outs

ALBANY—Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos: out of power, champion of transparency.

Skelos testified before a meeting of the State Senate's Temporary Commission on Rules Reform and Administration, which, in honor of Sunshine Week, is considering bills that would expand the definition of a public meeting and require more proactive disclosure of documents available under the Freedom of Information Law.

But Skelos used the opportunity to beat the drum that he and other Republicans should be included in talks pertaining to the budget and the M.T.A. deficit. Such talks occurred last night among David Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith.

"During Sunshine week, instead of promoting openness and transparency in budget discussions, the governor and the speaker have created, as Senator Winner said, an eclipse," Skelos said punnily. He said the efforts are "disingenuous when we see that a $122 billion budget is being discussed completely behind closed doors."

In the last few years, when Republicans still held the majority in the State Senate, both that chamber and the Assembly would pass one-house budgets and then have a public airing of the differences. Skelos said that "one-party rule" is doing away with that. Democrats have said that with fewer philosophical differences, there might not be a need for this.

Last night, Silver said "I think we're very clear. We have a time table. We know that one way or another we have to end the deliberative process by the end of the week, and either pass one house or being able to prepare a two-house budget."

Smith has said he intends to do conference committees.

After testifying, Skelos was asked no questions and walked out of the room, where he raged some more for reporters before boarding an elevator.

Dean Skelos, New Champion of the Outs