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Even with vetoes, Albany's budget is out of whack

Amid the back-and-forth about whether Gov. David A. Paterson has the power to order the State Senate back to Albany to finish a budget, a vital focus has been lost: How far does this budget go toward closing the $9.2-billion deficit? And how well does it prepare New York for the still-bleak too-near future?

The answers are devastating. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued his review last week, showing that state spending will grow by $5.4 billion - despite the ballyhooed 6,700 vetoes Paterson signed. Nearly $14 billion of the current budget will come from "one-shots," or savings that won't recur the following year. That leaves the state's revenue and spending badly mismatched. DiNapoli predicts a $7 billion deficit as the fiscal year ends - and that's if the economy doesn't worsen.

At one point, Paterson asked his hand-picked lieutenant governor, Richard Ravitch, to draw up a plan to bring state coffers into balance over four years. Paterson rejected the borrowing portion of the Ravitch plan, but the governor should have championed this cornerstone reform. This year's state budget also counts on fantasy revenues like $500 million in union concessions, $1.1 billion in extra federal Medicaid payments and that budget evergreen, taxes on Indian cigarette sales.

Even if the State Senate returns to Albany to pass its $1.5 billion revenue bill, there still will be a mess to mop up. hN


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