ALBANY—Last week, David Paterson vetoed 14 bills that he said would cost state taxpayers $5.7 million "outside of the budgetary process," while authorizing millions more in state spending.
"This is not a time to add to the state's spending or to increase the burden on the State's taxpayers. This is the time for fiscal responsibility, and that means vetoing bills that increase costs to taxpayers," Paterson said in a release on July 22. "While these bills address important causes, government has to live within its means – just like regular New Yorkers do every day. That means making difficult choices so we can lay the foundation for our economic recovery."
A quick spot-check of legislation passed in the throes of this legislative session shows there's a lot more that has come or is pending. Paterson signed an extension of Timothy's Law—a measure which mandates mental health services be covered under health insurance plans—that will cost an estimated $100 million a year. He also signed a bill that would exempt some aircraft parts from sales tax, which will cost around $2 million a year.
"None of them spend money that isn't in the state budget. The governor isn't opposed to spending state money," said Morgan Hook, a spokesman for Paterson. "Just because a bill spends money doesn't mean its spending money it wasn't budgeted for."
Paterson signed off on a budget in April that increased spending and included a temporary tax increase. Since, he has talked about some fiscally conservative initiatives including a spending cap and property tax cap. At one point this spring, he threatened to veto any bill that spent money.
Included in the vetoed bills was a measure that would have allowed the Highland Falls School district to space some repayments to the state over six years instead of three, which the governor nixed because "the state cannot withstand such unaccounted for financial losses in its current fiscal condition," according to a veto message. The measure would have cost $417,815.
It looks like similar repayment extensions for the Copiague and Southern Cayuga districts have also passed, and are waiting to be sent to the governor by the Assembly. (Bills return to their house of origin once they pass the second house, and then are forwarded to the governor in batches so as to allow his staff to review them.)
Hook said he wouldn't comment on a bill that wasn't yet before the governor.