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EDITORIAL: Don't leave cuts up to Paterson

It's almost inconceivable that New York has reached the point where the governor is offering to take over the legislature's budget-balancing power, to save legislators from their timid selves. Yet, here we are.

Gov. David A. Paterson's desperate offer yesterday, following weeks of stalemate on a $3.2-billion budget deficit, may be no more than a grab for the title Most Responsible Man in Albany. Business groups praised him for moving to rescue the state's credit rating. It also may be that his offer to bear the budget-cutting consequences is the last resort New York needs.

Fear of voter retribution so far has kept lawmakers from cutting school or health-care budgets. But now the Democratic majorities in the Assembly and Senate have a new dread: The election earlier this month tossed out Democrats in several local races. Lawmakers seem paralyzed between two painful options - action and inaction. But giving away power to Paterson would only make them seem more expendable.

Huge payments are due next month: $1.6 billion in school aid and $2.5 billion in STAR property tax rebates. If the state is forced to borrow, it will end up shelling out for interest payments instead of the services New Yorkers need.

Posturing won't pay the bills. Lawmakers must end their paralysis and come up with some answers. hN