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Paterson: Courts won't force state into insolvency

ALBANY - Gov. David A. Paterson vowed Tuesday to prevail against a legal challenge by education groups to his delaying school aid payments and STAR property-tax reimbursements that are due this month.

"I hope that these groups keep suing me," he told WWRL radio in Manhattan. "They're not going to beat me."

Paterson said he doubted state courts would force him to pay out $750 million that he has held back and have New York become insolvent on Dec. 31. "These courts will not strike down my delaying payments because even though it's harsh, it beats when you have government completely falling apart," he said.

Paterson's comments didn't appear to dissuade the teachers union, school boards association and superintendents council from plans to file a lawsuit Wednesday in State Supreme Court in Albany. The suit is expected to seek immediate payment of $582 million withheld from schools and a ruling that Paterson violated the constitutional prohibition against changes to spending without lawmakers' approval.

Alan Lubin, executive vice president of the New York State United Teachers union, said: "Instead of being concerned about our lawsuit, he [Paterson] should be concerned about the impact these delayed payments will have on children, particularly those living in the poorest school districts."

Paterson shot back that poor districts largely would have been spared under his Oct. 15 deficit reduction plan that the union helped scuttle in the legislature.

Still, the New York State Parent Teacher Association has taken the unusual step of endorsing the suit. "We felt it was important for parents and students to be represented," said association president Susan Lipman, a former school board member in West Islip.

The New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials could also join the education suit or file one of its own. Director Peter Baynes said cities such as Glen Cove and Long Beach had been hit hard by a 10 percent reduction in revenue sharing. "We're considering legal action," he said.

Paterson was confident of victory, recalling the defeat of a legal challenge by state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) over the July appointment of Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch. "Everyone laughed at me and who's laughing now?" Paterson said. "We have a lieutenant governor."

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