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New York government prepares to shut down

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • 2 Democrats threaten to break ranks in state senate
  • Failure to pass extension bill would force government shutdown
  • Vote takes place Monday, current extension expires hours later
  • Republicans insist on inclusion of their proposals

(CNN) -- After five months of negotiations, ten emergency budget extensions and a threat of a government shutdown, New York lawmakers were still not close to approving a new budget, Gov. David Paterson's office said Friday.

Over the past 30 years, the New York state budget has been approved on time just four times, but a shutdown would be unprecedented, and its ramifications are unclear. A senior Paterson administration official said that a conference call took place on Thursday "providing guidance" to state agencies on how to prepare in the event that Monday's vote fails.

"We're not going to let prisoners out of prison, but it's certainly going to be an urgent situation when police, firefighters, emergency services workers are not going to be able to perform their jobs," Paterson told reporters Friday. "We don't have the resources to afford the gasoline that goes in the cars that they drive, the public vehicles."

"This is a formidable situation of unimaginable consequences," he said.

This year, the state government is 2 1/2 months late in approving a 2010 budget and has been getting by on weekly extensions. The extensions have easily passed the Assembly, where Democrats have more than a 2/3rd majority.

But with only a two-vote edge in the state senate -- and Democratic senators threatening to break ranks and vote no on a new extension Monday -- the government could come to a screeching halt when the present extension expires at 12 a.m. Tuesday.

"I'm not voting for an extension if there are any new cuts involved," said Bronx Democratic Sen. Ruben Diaz. "For 10 weeks I've been cutting services to my people. For ten weeks I've been saying 'Yes Sir,' and I can't continue."

Another Bronx senator, Pedro Espada, was hopeful that the bill would pass but adamant about his stand.

"This is not a game of chicken," he said. "We cannot continue to hurt the most vulnerable. The sky won't fall. It won't be doomsday."

The Republican minority in the senate has been voting as a bloc against the extensions. Unless some of their proposals -- such as cuts to Mental Health and Social Services -- are "embraced," Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif said they will continue to reject the bill.

The Democrats are ignoring us, and now that two rogue senators are threatening to shut down government, they've come to us for help," he said. "They have ignored us up to now."

The Republicans are "playing Russian Roulette with someone else's head," said Austin Shafran, spokesman for the senate's Democratic leader, Sen. John Sampson. Shafran said he was confident the extension would pass Monday.

"Senator Sampson has always gotten 32 votes and is confident he will we get our 32 votes," he said.

Paterson's spokeswoman, Jessica Bassett, said that the governor "is not going to get into horse trading. He's interested in a responsible budget."