Agreement keeps N.Y. state parks open over holiday weekend

Albany (AP) — New York Gov. David Paterson said Thursday an
agreement has been reached to have all 178 state parks open for the
Memorial Day weekend.

“The Legislature has made the tough choices to my satisfaction
that will enable us to open the parks,” Paterson said. His
administration had listed 41 parks and 14 of the state’s 35
historic sites for closing, along with service cuts at others, to
help close the state’s budget gap.

Paterson said negotiations that ended early Thursday morning
would provide $11 million for full operations this year,
effectively offset by money from the Environmental Protection Fund,
which would be cut by about $74 million. The measure is also
expected to keep the historic sites open this year, as well as
Department of Environmental Conservation campgrounds targeted for
closing.

“We’ve come to a deal to approximately cut about what I proposed
in the original budget,” Paterson said on WOR radio 710’s “The John
Gambling Show.” ‘”The bad news is it has taken about four days to
find $11 million dollars to keep the parks open.”

Lawmakers wanted smaller cuts in the fund dedicated to
conservation programs like buying land and recycling. They balked
earlier in the week at Paterson’s proposal linking those cuts to
restored park funding. Meanwhile, they’ve been getting calls from
constituents unhappy about park closings, especially with the warm
weather and approaching holiday weekend.

“We have the framework for an agreement, but the specific
details are still being discussed by our members prior to any final
approval from the Senate,” said Austin Shafran, spokesman for the
majority Senate Democratic Conference.

The Senate and Assembly were expected to vote on the plan later
in the day, enabling parks staff to have gates open Friday. The
legislation was being drafted Thursday afternoon.

According to administration officials, lawmakers need to find
another $2 billion to $2.5 billion in spending cuts to close the
deficit and adopt a balanced budget of roughly $130 billion for
this year. Democratic and Republican legislative leaders agreed
Tuesday to have conference committees of rank-and-file legislators
try to find more cuts based on broad parameters that staffs were to
identify by Thursday. The budget was due April 1.

Paterson said he has proposed a balanced budget, which differs
from Senate and Assembly proposals by about $100 million in health
care and up to $800 million in education spending.

While budget talks continue, Shafran said no conference
committee meetings were scheduled for Thursday.

Categories: New York – Steve Piatt

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