As frustration over New York's nearly month-late budget exploded in a shouting match at a committee meeting Tuesday, Gov. David Paterson dared lawmakers to pass his proposed spending plan or risk working a full, five-day week in Albany until a budget is passed.
Paterson also asked the Legislature to approve a one-day furlough for 100,000 state workers every week as the state continues to function on one-week emergency spending appropriations. That would save about $30 million a day and cover about 70 percent of the employees under control of the governor, but exclude public safety and health care workers.
"The cuts are difficult. They will be painful," Paterson told reporters. "But we were elected to make the tough decisions."
Asked why he would ask - and potentially try to compel - legislators to work five-day weeks instead of three until a budget is adopted, Paterson said his intent was to shake up the Legislature's usual routine in an effort to jump-start negotiations.
His latest efforts to pressure the Legislature haven't worked as he planned. The Senate and Assembly in recent months have been unable to meet his target for cuts to address a projected $9.2 billion deficit and haven't convened conference committees to publicly arrive at a budget on time.
Even rank-and-file members have ignored and ridiculed the Democratic governor since he dropped his own campaign bid amid scandals.
The rising rancor and frustration was clear shortly before Paterson's press conference, in a usually staid Senate Finance Committee meeting that erupted into shouts and calls to "step outside."
Democratic Sen. Kevin Parker of Brooklyn, who is black, was defending a Paterson nominee to one of the state authorities during a debate over the nomination. After questioning by Republican Sen. John DeFrancisco of Onondaga County, who is white, Parker shouted that a white nominee wouldn't be questioned so aggressively.
"How dare you!" Parker shouted at DeFrancisco. "You racist people in here," he said in the committee room. "People like you don't understand ... that's why people have policies to counteract that."
Then Democratic Finance Committee Chairman Carl Kruger shouted at Parker: "One more outburst like that, and I'll ask you to be removed."
"OK, then, get somebody to remove me," said Parker. "Bring people, though."
Paterson's latest budget proposal, a 10-bill package that calls for roughly $135 billion in spending, wasn't expected to reach a floor debate on Wednesday as he instructed.
Austin Shafran, spokesman for the Senate's Democratic majority, said senators will decide next whether to work five days, rather than the scheduled three days. He said the Senate continues to negotiate the budget that was due April 1, but the constitution requires consent of the full Legislature to consider another budget proposal from the governor.
The Assembly wasn't expected to vote on Paterson's budget, either, but the reason given reflected the growing tension Albany.
"I think this state needs a budget and I'm not standing on technicalities in order to avoid doing a budget," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat. "The Legislature can accept an amendment at any time."