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Senators working to free refunds

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State Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine supported the Senate Republican Conference's bid Wednesday to block Gov. David A. Paterson from issuing tax refunds late to alleviate the state's fiscal woes.

The Cape Vincent Democrat and his 30 Republican colleagues are attempting to collect enough signatures to dislodge a bill that would require the state to process refunds within 30 days of receiving a taxpayer's return.

Gov. Paterson has proposed lowering the cap on refunds paid by March 31 from $1.75 billion to $1.25 billion, which Mr. Aubertine said will delay thousands of refunds by nearly two months.

Under the new Senate rules, the coalition needs 38 signatures to bypass committees and bring the bill to a floor vote. It had 35 as of Wednesday evening, a tally that included Democratic Sens. David J. Valesky, Oneida; Brian X. Foley, Blue Point; William T. Stachowski, Buffalo; and Craig Johnson, Nassau.

Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, is a co-sponsor of the tax refund bill that the bipartisan coalition is pushing to the floor.

"New Yorkers are not a collective bank that should be lending money to its State government to pay its bills," he said in a statement. "I'm hoping that the Governor ultimately dismisses this proposal. But if it becomes part of the Budget agreement, then I won't support the Budget. Or, if the Department of Tax and Finance decides to unilaterally implement such a policy, then I will push to get this bill adopted into law as soon as possible."

Mr. Aubertine said he did not believe it was right to purposely deny New Yorkers access to their own money.

"In times like these, people need all the cash flow that belongs to them," he said.

In a statement, Mr. Valesky said the governor's proposal unfairly punished residents who pay their full taxes on time.

"There is a big difference between making tough decisions and bad decisions — this proposal is just plain wrong," he said.

The Senate passed a nonbinding resolution Tuesday calling on Mr. Paterson to "immediately abandon his intention to delay the refunding of individual and business income tax overpayments and refund those tax overpayments with all deliberate speed."

But Senate Republican Leader Dean G. Skelos said the 61-member body could do more and offered the tax refund bill as "an opportunity to act to stop the Governor."

"There's no excuse for Democrats to ignore this legislation," the Rockville Centre Republican said in a statement.

Mr. Aubertine agreed with his colleague.

"I don't know how you could support the resolution and not support the bill," he said.

But Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, said she would not sign the petition because she considered the Republicans' bill to be ineffective and costly. She said the bill did nothing to prevent Mr. Paterson from unilaterally mandating delays and said it would create new costs by restricting the time frame during which the Department of Taxation and Finance would have to process returns.

Scott M. Reif, a Senate Republican Conference spokesman, expressed no surprise at Ms. Krueger's rejection.

"She seems to want to join Gov. Paterson in sticking it to taxpayers again," he said.

The Assembly also has a version of the tax refund bill, which is sponsored by Richard J. Brodsky, D-Westchester, under consideration.

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