Erika Rosenberg. Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. 3/17/2005.

Last year it held up agreement on the entire $100 billion state budget for more than four months.


But this year there has been virtually no mention of a landmark ruling that said New York City schools — and possibly those in other districts — should get billions more in state aid.


The Campaign for Fiscal Equity case got most of the blame last year for the latest state budget ever. Lawmakers didn't adopt it until Aug. 11 — 133 days after the fiscal year began on April 1 — largely because they couldn't agree on how much to send to New York City and whether to get it from borrowing, taxes or gambling revenue.


This year there is more public pressure to avoid a budget stalemate and the school lawsuit is back in the courts.


"Our kids can't wait another school year while the state stalls and delays in court. It's time for them to get the job done," said Karen Scharff of the Alliance for Quality Education, which wants more school funding.


But Democrats who control the Assembly — who held up a budget last year until the court case was addressed to their liking — this year say the issue is all but moot. That's because after the politicians couldn't agree, courts took over and ordered the state to give New York City schools $5.6 billion more per year. Gov. George Pataki has appealed, and now Democrats say they have no choice but to wait until the courts act again.


"We could put out the proposal, but it would be a matter of futility. There's nothing we can do," said Assembly Education Committee Chairman Steven Sanders, D-Manhattan.


Last year, Assembly Democrats proposed adding $7.5 billion to the $15 billion annual allocation for education. Senate Republicans suggested $5.2 billion; Pataki called for $4.5 billion. All plans would have been phased in over five or six years.


This year, all sides made more modest proposals. Pataki asked for $526 million more, Senate Republicans called for $580 million and Assembly Democrats proposed $790 million.


Urban and rural poor schools would fare better under the Assembly's proposal, suburban districts under the Senate's.


The Assembly and Senate are trying to reach an agreement that would settle the increase at about $900 million for next school year. Legislators met Wednesday to discuss that but made little progress.