Gov. David A. Paterson invited reporters into his office in the Capitol on Thursday to watch him begin wielding his veto pen on thousands of earmark grants, known as member items, that lawmakers appended to budget bills passed this week.
There, around a long conference table, Mr. Paterson and his aides had set up what amounted to a veto assembly line. For each grant — they are typically handed out by lawmakers to nonprofit groups, social service agencies and Little Leagues in their districts — the governor was handed a sheet of paper to sign from a stack three feet high by his chief counsel, Peter J. Kiernan.
On the other side of the table, two other administration lawyers worked through actual copies of the budget bills, literally crossing out the lines of the bills that corresponded to each grant.
As assembly lines go, it was quiet. Papers rustled. Pens scratched. Long Beach Latino Civic Association? Better luck next year. Visual Arts Research and Resource Center Related to the Caribbean? No member item for you!
“Are we finished?” Mr. Paterson joked after he had signed a few.
Not by a long shot: There are roughly 6,900 grants, each requiring a separate line-item veto. A spokesman for Mr. Paterson, Morgan Hook, said that the governor had left his schedule open for the next few days to allow time to sign all the vetoes personally. Asked whether Mr. Paterson would definitely sign them all, Mr. Hook answered: “He would like to sign them all.”
Mr. Paterson announced that he would veto the grants after lawmakers set aside parts of his budget and passed their own version this week, restoring hundreds of millions of dollars in school and health spending along with the member item money, much of it reappropriated from past allotments that are stored in accounts effectively controlled by the Legislature.
The member item vetoes do not, however, become effective until they are physically delivered to the Senate and Assembly. That has left some people wondering whether Mr. Paterson will hold back the signed vetoes as a negotiating chip with lawmakers, whom the governor is trying to persuade to approve a contingency plan for a probable shortfall in federal Medicaid money, among other priorities. By law, Mr. Paterson has until midnight on July 9 to deliver the vetoes formally.
Mr. Paterson, however, insisted that was not his plan.
“I’m not negotiating with anybody,” Mr. Paterson said before he began his vetoes. “I’m a little busy right now, so I don’t think I have time to negotiate.”
(Source: NY Times)