Shutdown of NY Tracks, Agencies Averted
State lawmakers in New York have approved an emergency spending bill that keeps the government--and racetracks across New York--open.
The shutdown threat began last week when two Bronx Democratic senators said they would not vote for what is now the 11th weekly emergency bill needed to pay for basic state services since the state began its fiscal year April 1 without an annual budget in place.
Gov. David Paterson warned agencies last week to prepare for the shutdown of operations at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, June 15.
State Racing and Wagering Board officials told the Blood-Horse over the weekend that a shutdown of the state would close racetracks because state workers who serve in such posts as racing stewards and equine drug testers would be furloughed.
It was not certain whether racetrack casinos would be hit by any shutdown, officials said at the time, because the state Lottery regulates the facilities and could have been also been told to close. Racino operators later said they were told they would not have to close.
One lone Democrat--Sen. Ruben Diaz from the Bronx—on the morning of June 14 was still insisting he would be voting against the emergency bill. The Democrats have 32 members and the Republicans have 30. It takes 32 votes to pass a bill in the Senate.
But several Republican senators signaled hesitation about being involved in any effort that would force a shutdown. Much of the pressure on the Republicans was aimed at two Republicans from the Albany area, which is home to tens of thousands of state workers. One of those Republicans, Sen. Hugh Farley of the Schenectady area, said June 14 he will vote for the emergency bill. Democratic leaders insisted there will be enough votes this afternoon to pass the bill.
In the end, Diaz did vote against the bill, but Farley and two other Republicans provided the added votes needed for passage.
The shutdown threat, however, could return again next week if the governor and legislators do not agree on an overall, 2010 budget. Many lawmakers, however, believe the legislature, especially in an election year, would never permit the state to actually shut down operations.
The approval late June 14 came after three Republican lawmakers crossed the aisle to vote with Democrats who control the Senate. The Assembly, where passage had been certain, later also approved the emergency bill.
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