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WLNG
May 10, 2006

Money Restored For Local Programs


New York State Governor George Pataki vetoed 213 separate line items in the 2006 State Budget, which would have accounted for a savings of more than $2.8 billion in the $15 billion budget. But the State Legislature has overridden 187 of those vetoes. Fifteen vetoes were not acted upon.

"It is highly unusual to have that many vetoes," noted Assemblyman Fred Thiele. "Most years there aren't any vetoes at all. This is the second time in the last four years to have substantial vetoes."

Last week, Thiele announced that he had voted in favor of most of the veto overrides, including $10 million for rehabilitating Southampton College as part of the takeover by the State University of New York at Stony Brook, as well as SUNY operating funds to reopen the undergraduate program at the Southampton campus in the fall.

Other overrides included the child tax credit and the New York State School Tax Relief Program, an annual property tax rebate of about $285 a year for owners who use their property as their primary residence. The governor, however, may not release the money for the STAR program, asserting that the legislature's override is unconstitutional because it has exceeded its authority in amending the budget. "We might have a constitutional standoff," Thiele speculated. "It's unclear if that will be negotiated."

The assemblyman voted with the legislature to override Pataki's veto of the Pine Barrens School District PILOTs. The payments in lieu of taxes is directed to the Riverhead, Hampton Bays, and Eastport/South Manor school districts, where tax revenues have been reduced by nontaxable state owned properties.

Finally, the legislature voted to sustain teachers centers and state tax credits for conservation easements and volunteer fire and emergency service workers. Funding for the culinary arts program at Suffolk County Community College in Riverhead was also preserved. Although the governor moved to cut financial assistance for community colleges, the two houses had it reinserted, granting $150,000 to the culinary program.

Thiele did not oppose every veto, including an item that would allot $200 million in member item spending. He cited no oversight to prevent wasteful spending as the reason for his objection. Even so, the legislature voted to keep the line item in the budget.

In related news, Pataki has awarded about $8 million in grant funding for improved family health care and women's access to local perinatal services. Community-based organizations and local health departments across the state have received funding. In Suffolk County, $111,588 was granted to the Shinnecock Indian Health Clinic; $275,000 was allocated to the county's Department of Health Services; and $210,000 was apportioned to the county's Perinatal Coalition.

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