Pressure's On, So Albany Breaks

Daily News Albany Bureau Chief

Some 2 million tenants face expiration of state rent laws in eight weeks. The state budget is 17 days late. So what are state lawmakers doing?

Going on spring break!

Members of the Assembly and state Senate broke off discussions on the rent crisis, dropped budget talks and took off yesterday for a recess scheduled to last until May 5.

Government watchdogs blasted the lawmakers for leaving town instead of working around the clock to resolve the rent crisis and end the impasse over the state's 13th consecutive late budget.

Perhaps they're tired after a record number of campaign fundraisers around the capital, complained Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

"After lawmakers spent the first 3 1/2 months killing themselves raising campaign contributions at Albany-based fundraisers, it's a good idea that they take two weeks off, rest up and enter the last leg of the Albany fund-raise-a-thon," Horner said.

Thomas Carroll of the anti-tax group CHANGE-NY said the only good thing about the get-out-of-town plan is that lawmakers may get an earful from voters back home.

"Constituents are certainly going to want to know why the budget isn't in place and real property tax cuts haven't occurred," he said.

Assembly and Senate leaders defended the departure.

"The Legislature will be available if there's something productive to be done," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan).

"We're following the [legislative] calendar. The calendar calls for a recess . . . and that simply means a recess, not a vacation," agreed State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer), stressing he will continue to work on the budget and rent issues.

An estimated 2 million tenants in the city and suburbs face the June 15 expiration of laws that limit how much landlords can raise rent. Bruno has vowed to let the laws expire unless state lawmakers agree to eliminate the laws gradually over two years.

Original Story Date: 041797
Original Story Section: Beyond the City