- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 15, 2003

NEW YORK — Republican Gov. George E. Pataki went on the warpath yesterday, rejecting the state Legislature’s New York City aid package just hours after both houses overrode his veto of state budget proposals that called for steep tax increases.

“The $2.5 billion increase is one that will affect every single family and mean that they have less to spend on their own family’s needs because of a higher government tax burden,” Mr. Pataki said yesterday, the morning after he vetoed 119 parts of the state spending plan.

He urged legislators to “come back and sit at the table” to negotiate a new package for the city, presumably one that would include his plan to use video-lottery machine revenues to close the city’s budget gap.

The state Legislature, in a sharp rebuke to the three-term governor, began voting yesterday to override the chief executive’s vetoes of tax and spending proposals in a $93 billion state budget that would add $1.3 billion in spending and $2.5 billion in hefty tax increases.

Legislative leaders say they will override his veto on the city budget, too.

“It takes courage to lead, and the governor is just not leading,” said Democratic state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, anticipating the veto overrides would be finished in about a week said, “And now the Legislature has the last word.”

The governor’s comments yesterday were the latest in a series of dramatic political thrusts in a crisis that has split the state Republican Party and buttressed speculation that the Republican antitax governor is positioning himself for a job in the Bush administration.

The crux of the split in the Republican ranks revolved around $1.1 billion in school aid and health care cuts that Mr. Pataki proposed to balance the state budget.

Just days before the Legislature voted to pass a series of budget bills to undo the governor’s cuts, labor unions bought millions of dollars of television time to support a new tax on those they termed “the wealthy” and openly threw its support behind the tax-increase plan.

For the governor, it was a political gamble and even if he lost, said political sources, he would still be attractive to the national party as a Bush-style tax fighter who stood his ground. The last time a governor’s veto was overridden by the Legislature was in 1982 during the Hugh L. Carey administration.

Among the new tax increases in the Legislature’s budget are increases in the personal income-tax rate, as well as a rise in the sales tax, amounting to 8.5 percent for New York City residents.

The city also faces a temporary surcharge on annual incomes over $100,000, a proposed increase of 8.5 percent on rents in the city’s 1 million rent-stabilized apartments, a 25 percent increase in commuter-train fares, higher taxi fares and heftier water bills.

Support for the taxes formed the basis of a deal between Mr. Silver and Mr. Bruno. New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg threw his lot in with the state leaders after they blocked his attempts to reinstate a commuter tax to shore up the city’s budget.

The leader of the state’s Conservative Party, Michael Long, has termed the partnership an “unholy alliance.”

Although he vowed repeatedly to stop “job-killing taxes,” the governor said shortly before casting vetoes, “I may well lose this fight, I know that.” With the override process gaining steam, it appears that at least in the near term, he was right.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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