Share this article

print logo

Senate session marked by inaction Bill to aid Buffalo schools fails to get final approval

The State Senate's one-day summertime session Monday was a lesson in what didn't get done.

Hundreds of staffers and lobbyists journeyed back to Albany less than a month after the Senate supposedly broke for the summer, but by the end of the day a whole series of measures had not been taken up.

With a catfight still under way between Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer, the GOP-led Senate declined to take up dozens of gubernatorial nominations -- some pending since February.

The Senate also did not pass an already agreed-to measure to reduce some restrictions in the state's much-criticized Wicks Law, a union-backed statute that drives up the cost of public construction projects.

The Senate also failed to give final passage to a measure that would have permitted the Buffalo schools to refinance existing capital debt, which was expected to save the district $10 million. The money would have helped to close a projected deficit in the city's third phase of its school construction and renovation program that began earlier this decade.

Also dying was a plan pushed by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to charge fees for vehicles entering a large section of Manhattan as a way to reduce congestion.

That plan was a major reason the Senate came back to town, but it was never brought to the floor because Bruno, R-Brunswick, said it did not have backing in the Democratic-led Assembly or enough Democratic support in his chamber. He blamed Spitzer for "folding his arms" and not pushing his fellow Democrats.

The Senate did give a last-minute reprieve to local industrial development agencies, which have more than $1 billion in low-interest financing in the pipeline for various not-for-profit and hospital and nursing home construction projects.

The authority for the financing expired July 1, but the Senate, in its last bill Monday evening, backed an Assembly bill giving life to the program until Jan. 30. At stake was the ability of the not-for-profit groups to afford some of the pending projects, such as a hospice in Cattaraugus County.

"All of these projects that had been in jeopardy will no longer be in jeopardy," said Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo, the Assembly bill sponsor who is pushing for a series of changes to the way IDAs operate in response to criticism that the funding is going to entities that don't meet promised job-creation targets. "My intention in introducing the seven-month extender was to force all parties to work together through the summer and fall and reach a compromise on reform," he added.

Among the Spitzer nominations still on hold because of the Senate's failure to confirm them are Daniel Gundersen, the governor's choice to head his efforts to restore the upstate economy, as well as two other leaders of the state's economic development office; they will continue to serve in acting capacities.


There are no comments - be the first to comment