12/02/2010 2:23PM

New York OTB talks continue

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Leaders of the New York Senate remain in negotiations with legislators in an attempt to build support for a bill that would allow the New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation to cancel a plan to close at the end of Friday, officials for the legislature and Gov. David Paterson said on Thursday.

The efforts, however, have taken place among infighting among the state's Democrats, complicating efforts to line up the 32 votes necessary to pass the bill. Officials of the Senate's majority Democrat leadership have complained that Gov. David Paterson, a Democrat, has not done his fair share of lobbying for support. In response, officials in Paterson's office have sharply rebutted the claims while contending that the Senate Democratic leadership has ignored the consensus the governor built for the bill among New York City OTB's myriad constituencies.

As of Thursday, then, it remained unclear if the Senate Democrats, who hold a slim majority that will be lost at the start of the new year, would call the Senate back into session to address the bill by Friday. The Assembly passed the bill by a vote of 83-46 during a special session on Tuesday, but the Senate left Albany on Monday without addressing the legislation.

Jessica Bassett, a spokesperson for Paterson, said that Senate Democrats' complaints that Paterson had not done enough to build support for the bill rings hollow considering that New York City OTB's chief executive, Greg Rayburn, had spent the last several months briefing legislators on the plan during weekly trips to Albany. Bassett also pointed out that the Assembly passed the bill by an overwhelming margin, and said that senators were improperly attempting to amend the bill at the last minute.
"This is not the time for negotiation," Bassett said. "The Assembly did its part. The Senate needs to do its part."

Austin Shafran, a spokesman for the Senate Democratic leadership, said that Democrats continue to discuss the bill with legislators in the hopes that 32 votes can be lined up before Friday's deadline. Without providing specifics, Shafran said that Gov. Paterson needed to be more involved in those efforts. Democrat support for the bill is critical because the party holds the majority number of votes.

"Right now the negotiations are continuing on the prepared reorganization, but we need to get 32 votes to close the deal, and it's incumbent on the governor to participate in that process," Shafran said. "You can't do that when you're doing radio shows all day."

Paterson will be replaced on Jan. 1 by governor-elect Andrew Cuomo. Democratic party members have publicly complained that the reorganization plan adopted by New York City OTB and approved by the company's creditors' committee amounts to a "bailout" of the company, and they are currently reluctant to be seen as supporting legislation that some would consider to be a drain on taxpayer funds.

Bassett countered that the reorganization plan would "cost taxpayers nothing," pointing to provisions in the bill that would restore the company's financial viability by a reduction in the amount of money the company makes in statutory payments to the racing industry.

"The plan does not take a single dollar of taxpayer funds," Bassett said. "And they've been briefed on that countless times."