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Cuomo may call back Legislature to address $350 million deficit


A stagnant economy has punched a $350 million hole in the state’s current budget and widened next year’s projected gap, meaning that lawmakers might have to go back to Albany and haggle over which programs to trim or whether to raise taxes.

In April, lawmakers passed a budget that closed a $10 billion gap without raising taxes, but “weak and unsettled economic conditions around the world,” as well as a faltering economy at home, have “darkened” the state’s fiscal outlook, the Division of Budget said in a report Monday. The state must balance its budget every year, and this year’s budget is quickly becoming more and more unbalanced.

“There’s no doubt that the trajectory of the bouncing ball has been down,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on the podcast “The Capitol Pressroom with Susan Arbetter.”

Mr. Cuomo said he has some options to help close this year’s gap, but “we may need a special session where I bring back the Legislature.”

Lawmakers who already grappled with cuts to health care services and school aid put the responsibility on Mr. Cuomo to come forward with a plan; the governor has wide powers over the state’s budget.

“That decision is up to the governor,” said state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton. “If the governor feels it’s necessary to deal with the deficit, I’m ready to go whenever he calls.”

Mrs. Ritchie said she would not support additional cuts to school aid.

“I think the school districts in my area are struggling to get by right now,” she said. “I wouldn’t support any additional cuts to the school districts in the 48th.”

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, who in Albany is often on the opposite end of issues from Mrs. Ritchie, found herself there again about the $350 million current deficit and next year’s gap, which could reach $3.5 billion.

“I will continue to support a true millionaires’ tax,” Mrs. Russell said. “I cannot support giving a tax break when the extreme need is still there.”

The so-called “millionaires’ tax,” a temporary personal income tax surcharge on those who make more than $200,000, is set to expire at the end of the year. Mr. Cuomo and Senate Republicans remain steadfast in opposition to the tax, even as counteracting forces like the Occupy Wall Street movement clamor for it.

Mr. Cuomo reiterated his position against the millionaires’ tax Monday, suggesting that it would be a short-term fix that would cause long-term problems.

“You know my position on taxation. That’s my position, and I’m trying to deal with the hole that we have today,” he said. Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, said he would be open to cutting certain programs that Medicaid offers, but would not be open to additional prison closures.

“If he calls it back, I’m not sure what his recommendations are going to be,” Mr. Blankenbush said.

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