John Toscano. Queens Gazette. 4/5/2006.

Keep the champagne chilled for about another week and hold the toasts for the remarkable job our mayor did in getting the school construction funds he demanded from the state legislature.

There's still a major hurdle Mayor Michael Bloomberg will have to leap over-Governor George Pataki-before he can really start partying and putting the shovels into the ground.

With that cautionary note out of the way, we can say that Bloomberg's brief campaign to get an $11.2 billion school construction package from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno was nothing short of sensational.

We've been covering City Hall and Albany shenanigans for about 40 years, through Mayors Lindsay, Beame, Koch, Dinkins and Giuliani, and never did we see a display of power such as Bloomberg unleashed.

He threatened Bruno's continuing to be a major player in the state capital, promising election challenges to Senator Serphin Maltese R-C, Middle Village) and other GOP senators, who knew the mayor had the money to back up his threats and demands.

In bringing Bruno into line, the mayor got a major boost from Silver, a Democrat who saw the opportunity to get the court ordered funding that was due New York City and seized it. With Assembly member Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood), Education

Committee chair, doing the nuts-and bolts negotiating with the GOP senators, Silver's operatives fashioned a package that is long overdue for the New York City school system.

The big loser up to this point is the lame-duck governor, who had been stonewalling and blocking the funds the courts had approved repeatedly in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity suit. It would be ironic if the governor can't undo the budget passed by the Assembly and senate. What he was able to do by ignoring the court order was overturned by Bloomberg, Silver and Bruno, who have been a major thorn in his side in recent years.

Realistically, Bruno took advantage of the only course open to him. With the state tilting to the Democrats in this year's elections, and with Eliot Spitzer a strong favorite to become governor while his party holds on to the other top state offices, the only semblance of Republican power would be that party's continuing as the majority in the upper house.

With Bloomberg out of the picture (if Pataki doesn't scuttle the deal somehow), it's likely Bruno can hold on to the majority leader's post and give the GOP some relevance in the state capital beginning next January and into the next four or eight years.

In working out the agreement with Silver and the Democrats on the mayor's school construction package, Bruno was also able to salvage some other goodies, like the real estate tax rebate which will benefit homeowners in heavily Republican areas, so he didn't concede completely to Bloomberg and Silver.

Meanwhile, Pataki doesn't have much firepower left if he tries to scuttle the gains the mayor made in the Silver-Bruno budget. His vetoes should be meaningless and subject to easy override by both houses, judging from the almost unanimous votes of approval the Assembly and senate registered in passing the dozens of budget bills on Friday.

The governor might be able to contain some of the damage he may see resulting from the approved budget, but only if the legalities are in question here and there and he has to go into court to straighten these matters out.

We're sure he's harboring no illusions at this point in the game that his vetoes, if he makes any, will stand up and not be overridden.

So, as we said at the start, keep the champagne on ice-there'll be plenty of time to toast magic Mike once the budget is signed, sealed and delivered.