A meeting between Gov. George E. Pataki and the White House budget director yielded no agreement Wednesday to any part of the governor's request for $34 billion in additional federal aid for New York.
"I can't point to a specific item that we agreed on," a frustrated Pataki said in a news conference outside the White House after his meeting with Mitch Daniels, director of management and budget.
It was Pataki's first face-to-face conference with a senior White House official since he unveiled his surprise appeal two weeks ago for $34 billion in federal money.
The request was in addition to the $20 billion Bush approved days after the Sept. 11 attack, which destroyed the World Trade Center and a large portion of Manhattan's financial district.
Pataki did not coordinate the request with the White House, and almost immediately budget officials began to downplay the state's prospects. Actually, the governor did not see President Bush on Wednesday.
Emerging from the West Wing, the governor seemed to reflect exasperation. He said several times, "We're going to be fighting every day for New York.
"For New York to come back, we're going to need the help of the federal government," he said.
The governor noted that reports commissioned by former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., showed "literally every year New York sent $16 (billion) to $17 billion more in tax revenues down to Washington than we got back.
"Now it's time that America's government recognize that this was an attack not on New York but an attack on America that took place in New York," he said.
Pataki backed off his initial $34 billion request for federal aid. He said the number could include up to $15 billion in insurance proceeds, aid from the State Legislature and from other sources.
The New York Post reported Wednesday that instead of $34 billion, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y, are struggling to get Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., to support their request for $5 billion in special aid.
"We're getting together a package that grows," Pataki insisted. "We don't expect that we're going to have a big ceremony with a giant check.
"We're not going to get everything we request," he said. "That's not the way Washington or the world works."
Pataki said he has "reasonable prospects" of the federal government designating lower Manhattan an empowerment zone, which would be entitled to grant tax credits for companies willing to invest there.
The state's problems may be more serious than not getting the supplemental $34 billion, which Pataki now calls an estimate.
The economic stimulus package being considered by the House contains no specific money for New York.
Worse, reports persist that New York may not even get all of the initial $20 billion that Bush OK'd Sept. 14, and which Congress backed almost immediately.
Congress must approve the release of each segment of the $20 billion. So far, the federal government has turned over $2.5 billion of the original $20 billion authorization. Last week, the president agreed to turn over $6.3 billion more, but Congress hasn't approved that yet.
The White House said more help for New York will be considered as information develops, but it has already been reported that some of the $20 billion has been diverted to military needs. And now budgetmakers are struggling to find added funds to meet the challenge of bioterrorism.