No paychecks for do-nothing Albany senators; DiNapoli order to hold paychecks takes effect
BY Kenneth Lovett and Glenn Blain
DAILY NEWS ALBANY BUREAU
Wednesday, July 8th 2009, 12:28 AM
M. Benjamin for News
Pedro Espada leaves a breakfast meeting with his three 'amigos,' who've cryptically said they may end the Senate stalemate.
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Senators, can you spare a dime?
Thirty-one days into their stalemate, do-nothing warring state senators are having their salaries withheld Wednesday - for the first time since the infamous June 8 Republican-led coup.
State Controller Thomas DiNapoli last week ordered the biweekly paychecks of all 62 senators held until the Senate wraps up its fight.
Wednesday is the first payday since the order. Payroll for 62 senators amounts to some $190,000 - or $3,049 per senator, every two weeks.
"The controller didn't want to interject his office in what's an internal dispute, but he just felt he couldn't continue to process payroll as if everything was normal," DiNapoli spokesman Dennis Tompkins said.
DiNapoli is moving ahead even though a court has yet to rule on his question about whether he has the authority.
The controller's office also continues to withhold payments for expense vouchers submitted by the Senate. A spokesman said 557 vouchers have been withheld, totaling $1.5 million.
Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. - one of the coup's two turncoat Democrats - said he expects DiNapoli's action "to be litigated."
"The continued punitive actions are ... illegal," Espada said.
The pay-less payday comes as Gov. Paterson is poised to take to the airwaves tonight to talk about the stalemate. He has requested air time on TV stations across the state at 5:01 p.m.
"Gov. Paterson will address the current Senate stalemate and its impact on all New Yorkers," spokesman Peter Kauffman said.
Meanwhile, there were mixed signals on whether Republican and Democratic leaders have made significant progress in their talks.
Both sides have proposed a power-sharing agreement that would run through the end of next year. They said they are trying to make a compromise deal over the next few days.
"We think we're substantially there," Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said after a meeting with Democrats and Gov. Paterson.
While also citing progress, Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson would not put a timetable on a possible deal.
Earlier in the day, Espada and his fellow self-described "amigos" - Sens. Ruben Diaz Jr. (D-Bronx), Hiram Monserrate (D-Queens) and Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn) - threatened to resolve the stalemate themselves if there is no deal by tomorrow.
"One way or another, this has to end," Diaz said.
With Elizabeth Benjamin