ALBANY—David Paterson said that there's no point of having conference committees if legislative leaders can come to a budget agreement, and he believes they will.
"They feel they are close enough to an agreement on what their deficit reduction is," Paterson said, giving his first public comments since a closed-door meeting with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (and the Republican leaders before they left) yesterday. "They're not necessarily agreeing with me, but they're agreeing with each other. They have met with me in the last few days to have me explain some of the cuts and have them explained."
"They seem to be on the same page with each other," Paterson said.
"We wouldn't want to have conference committees where the two conferences agree just for the sake of turning on cameras for information that's already been resolved," he continued, when asked if it was incongruous that he spent most of Sunshine Week out of the public eye. "That's, at least, the explanation the legislature gave to me for why they have not gone to conference committees."
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has indicated that his chamber is ready to pass a one-house budget. No bill has yet been introduced, but if it were before midnight this evening, a vote could be taken on Monday. Several members are privately grumbling about feeling hamstrung by the State Senate, where things are less in order.
If the Assembly were to pass a budget, and the State Senate were to follow suit, there would by law be some kind of conference committee process, which Republicans have been screaming for (without, Democrats say, offering much input; Senate Republicans dispute this, citing a budget proposal they prepared.)
Yesterday, I asked Denny Farrell, chairman of the Assembly Ways & Means Committee, whether this was going to happen. He was very noncommittal.
Several Assembly sources said that on Wednesday they were told to prepare to pass a one-house budget on Monday, but yesterday it was reported there was "substantial progress" on a three-way agreement.
Some sources have said the bill will be printed as a stop-gap measure; others are doubtful, citing the problems in negotiation if a palatable representation of your position is printed and public.
"It still seems volatile, but they're really working hard in the Senate not to embarrass themselves and have that on-time budget," one source said. Negotiations are expected to continue this weekend.
Dan Weiller, a Silver spokesman, said not bill has been printed, and that "discussions are progressing."