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ALBANY LOOKS TO MOVE PAST BUDGET DEBACLE

Message to Gov. George E. Pataki from legislative leaders: Get over it.

Message to legislative leaders from Pataki: Not just yet.

So went Albany on Tuesday, as the sides spent time licking their wounds while at the same time pouring more salt on them.

The Legislature's top Democrat and Republican, who on Thursday overrode all of Pataki's vetoes of the $93 billion budget deal they forged without him, said Tuesday there are too many important issues remaining in the legislative session for the governor to stay on the sidelines.

The governor's usual Republican ally, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, was a bit more pointed Tuesday morning.

"It would be nice if the governor would get off this kick of talking about all this doom and gloom that he foresees here in this state and get on in a proactive way with helping the people of this state cope with what we know is financial distress," Bruno said.

By the afternoon, after he, Pataki and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver appeared together in public for the first time since the budget wars erupted weeks ago, the legislator had softened his tone against the Republican governor.

Bruno said he is "encouraging the governor to just sort of go on now and talk about other things that are important to the people of the state."

But a couple hours later, the governor was again targeting lawmakers, saying they had crafted an "irresponsible" budget that is "significantly out of balance." He said his budget talk has been nothing more than "a realistic analysis" of the fiscal consequences of the legislative budget.

"I think those in the Legislature who think they passed a budget and the consequences are going to go away are not facing reality," Pataki said.

It took a memorial service for police officers in a park next to the Capitol to bring the governor, Silver and Bruno together. The service honored 15 fallen officers, including Buffalo Police Officer James A. Shields, who died in a crash while pursuing robbery suspects, and Cheektowaga Police Detective Wasyl Potienko, killed one day before Shields in an accident involving his unmarked police car and two trucks.

After the ceremony, Silver said Pataki called him Tuesday to talk about "getting past the budget, going toward the end-of-session."

The 2003 legislative session is scheduled to end June 19. Typically, the final weeks of session are the busiest, with hundreds of bills being pushed through. This year, though, all bets are off with how the session will wind down considering that Silver and Bruno have already shown they can cut the governor out and forge their own deal.

Silver insisted he is not interested in repeating the budget fight on other upcoming issues on the table, which include everything from whether to change Superfund cleanup standards to reforming the state's tort laws. He said he wants the final weeks to be done in a "collegial, bi-partisan fashion" with the governor.

Asked if he saw Pataki's call as an olive branch that lawmakers have been waiting weeks for, Silver said, "I don't see it as anything other than his commitment, I assume, to continue in his position as governor and to go forward with the Legislature as partners in dealing with the business of the people of the State of New York."

But in the roller coaster ways of Albany, while Silver talked of working with Pataki, only moments earlier he accused the governor of "campaigning" to get the state's credit rating lowered.

Last week, the Wall Street rating agency, Standard & Poor's, lowered the outlook on New York's bonds from stable to negative, a first step to a possible downgrade that could make it more expensive for the state to borrow money.

"If anyone is looking to lower the credit rating, it's the Speaker when he rammed through this irresponsible fiscal plan," Pataki snapped back later in the day.

Bruno said he has gotten no word yet from Pataki whether the governor plans to sue the Legislature over its budget plan. The governor has repeatedly said the budget that lawmakers crafted violates the constitution in a number of ways. He declined again Tuesday to say when -- or if -- he will take the Legislature to court, leaving the budget uncertainties festering.

"Our objective isn't looking for differences. Our objective is to try to get together, work together and resolve our differences through negotiation and come up with an agreement," Bruno said.

e-mail: tprecious@buffnews.com

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