Senate Democrats break ranks with House, will vote on their on deficit bill

Majority Democrats in the state Senate broke ranks today with their Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives, announcing they would vote within a few days on their own proposal to close a $500 million-plus shortfall in the current state budget.

“The current stalemate is unacceptable,” Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, wrote in a statement released early this evening. “Democrats must present an alternative and break the log jam.”

Senate Democrats, who hold 24 out of 36 seats in that chamber, warned their House counterparts late last week they were considering adopting a plan to close the $518.4 million deficit projected for this fiscal year with deeper programmatic cuts than House Democrats have been willing to support.

“Senate Democrats are working hard on finding solutions to the current budget crisis and will vote on a deficit-mitigation plan that fully balances the current year deficit by the end of this month,” Williams wrote.

Even if the legislature wipes that red ink off the books before the fiscal year ends in just over three months, a larger, $725.7 million deficit is being projected for 2010-11. And a mammoth $3.88 billion shortfall is being forecast for 2011-12, the first budget that the next governor and legislature must craft.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell offered a deficit-mitigation plan earlier this month, but that proposal drew criticism from House Democrats in particular because of proposed cuts to social services, health care and town aid.