Paterson frustrated over budget impasse

FILE - Gov. David Paterson speaking at the

FILE - Gov. David Paterson speaking at the Vision Long Island Meeting at the Melville Marriott. (Nov. 20, 2009) (Credit: Newsday / Maria Lopez)

ALBANY - Seeking to break the logjam in talks over deficit remedies, Gov. David A. Paterson wants lawmakers to give him authority to cut spending if they won't.

Paterson, in an Internet address to residents Tuesday, expressed frustration at the impasse over closing this year's $3.2-billion deficit. He said New York's financial stability was imperiled and warned of draconian steps taken by other states, including library closures in Michigan.

However, the State Senate rejected the proposal while the Assembly's Democratic majority welcomed Paterson's introduction of a revised deficit-reduction plan.

The 466-page plan, incorporating agreements reached with lawmakers, calls for more modest cuts to school aid and health care than Paterson unveiled on Oct. 15. It uses $391 million in federal stimulus funds for education that was earmarked for 2010-11 and more than doubles the tax on hospital revenues.

"I say this to the legislators: Cut this deficit with me or I'll do it myself," Paterson said. "The day of reckoning is here. . . . Let's make the tough choices."

Still, lawmakers focused on the governor's unusual request for budget cutting authority.

Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) and Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) balked at the proposal. Lavine doubted such authority would've been granted to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was New York's governor before becoming president. "We're not going to abdicate our responsibility," Lavine said.

Some questioned the legality. The constitution is silent on governors balancing budgets without the legislature.

However, the Court of Appeals expanded gubernatorial authority in recent cases such as the July appointment of Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch, said Robert Ward of SUNY's Rockefeller Institute of Government.

Temporary power to cut the budget, Paterson aides said, doesn't violate the constitution because he wouldn't be undoing or changing priorities set by the legislature when it adopted the $131.8-billion spending plan in April.

Business groups lauded the governor. "Any business leader who can read a ledger is prepared to stand with you," said Mitchell Rechler of the Association for a Better Long Island.

Separately, Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) criticized the new deficit-reduction plan as unacceptable because schools on Long Island would lose $23.8 million in aid compared with 2008-09 levels, while those in New York City gain $41 million.

Skelos and Senate Democratic chief John Sampson of Brooklyn have forged an alliance, opposing new taxes and midyear cuts to education. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) is more open to some reductions and described the new plan as progress.

Lawmakers went home Tuesday night, but will return to the Capitol on Monday for a fourth week of special session.

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