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Paterson: Either You Cut The Budget Or Let Me Do it

Gov. David Paterson prepares to deliver a speech via webcast on the state budget.  Photo provided by the Governor's office.
Gov. David Paterson prepares to deliver a speech via webcast on the state budget. Photo provided by the Governor's office.

Gov. David Paterson raised the stakes in his showdown with the state Legislature on Tuesday. He told legislators that if they were unwilling to make $3.2 billion in mid-year budget cuts, they should give him the authority and he’d do it for them.

Paterson, in a brief speech webcast (which you can view here) by the Governor’s office, said he had sent to the Legislature bills containing more than $3 billion in budget cuts needed to bring spending in line with the decline in state income.

“I want to make clear that this is not a cash flow problem that can be remedied with one shots or fiscal accounting. This is a lack of cash crisis that threatens the credibility of our state. Unless we act New York will run out of money even after we delay payments to schools and local governments. This is an unprecedented fiscal emergency,” he said.

Paterson also sent a bill that would allow the Legislature to give him one-time-only authority to make budget cuts on his own. “I say this to the legislators: this budget must be balanced. Please note the fate of so many other states that did not take this action. Cut this deficit with me or I will do it myself. The people of New York have waited too long. I stand willing and responsible to preserve the future of New York’s finances,” he said.

Leaders of both parties said they would not give Paterson any such authority, even on a one-time basis. One Republican called it “dangerous”.

Paterson continues to stick to the concept of mid-year cuts in school aid as one way to close the gap. He has removed more than half of his proposed cuts, however. His current plan would take back $295 million, down from $686 million in his original proposal.

Legislative leaders say they will not cut school aid. Local school officials say that if school aid is cut significantly, they will have to dip into reserves that they’ve set aside to pay the next two years of sharply higher retirement costs, or will have to cut staff in the middle of the school year.

With legislators heading home for the Thanksgiving holiday, it’s unclear when Paterson’s budget bills will be taken up.