ALBANY, N.Y. (WPIX)—It's business as usual in New York on Tuesday. All state offices are open and services are being provided thanks to a last-minute reprieve by the legislature.
Just hours before the midnight deadline for a shutdown of state government, the Senate, by a vote of 34 to 27, approved Governor David Paterson's latest stop gap spending bill. Passage was assured only after three Republicans said, in good conscience, they could not allow a shutdown crisis and broke from their ranks to vote in favor of the bill.
Only one Democrat, Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. of the Bronx, said his conscience mandated that he vote against the measure that called for over $300 million in cuts in health and welfare programs. Standing on the floor of the Senate, Diaz declared, "I am not voting for anymore cuts. Why balance the budget on the backs of the poor and needy?" Diaz was intense during his seven minute presentation and passionate when he stated, "I will not cut anymore benefits to the people who put me here and I'm willing to take the consequences."
Earlier, Diaz told me he was under intense pressure to relent and vote with the Democratic majority. He even refused to back down after the Governor restored almost $200 million to the measure, in what some saw as an effort by the Governor to buy Diaz's vote. "I'm not for rent, I'm not for lease," Diaz told PIX 11 News.
Senator Hugh Farley, a Schnectady Republican, whose constituents include thousands of state workers, rose to the floor of the chamber and asserted, "To not approve this bill would drive the state in chaos. It is time to pass a budget."
Another Republican, Senator Roy McDonald of Saratoga County voted in favor of the emergency measure and castigated Democrats for failure of leadership in getting a budget approved. "We've lost the respect of real people of this state," he declared. He angrily added, "Fear was used as a weapon today, fear by the leaders who were going to close down the state."
Long Island Senator Charles Fuschillo provided the third Republican vote. Shortly after the Senate approved the spending bill, the Assembly, where the Democrats hold a two to one majority, passed the measure that provides the funds to keep the state operating another week.
PIX 11 News asked Senator Majority Leader John Sampson what happens next week. "We will deal with next week when it arises," he said but added, "we are optimistic we can have a budget by next week."
Despite all the optimism the state has been operating without a budget for 76 days, and some fear it could be August or later before compromises are reached and a bill is finally approved.
For the moment, however, there are high fives over the fact that a government shutdown has been averted and the state of New York remains open for business.