TODAY'S PAPER
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Opinion

State should cut budget before taking on debt

Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch's much-anticipated plan to bring fiscal sanity to New York is dramatic. In plain language, Ravitch lays out a five-year blueprint, including overdue accounting reforms and the removal of some budgeting authority from state lawmakers. He finds such dire circumstances that he says borrowing may be the only way out.

The state has an immediate $9.1-billion deficit. Ravitch suggests borrowing $2 billion each year for three years. That's a big leap. Taking on debt for operating expenses nearly bankrupted Nassau County a decade ago.

We shouldn't cross that line until there are no other choices. And then, only if there are guarantees to reduce spending and name top-tier talent to sit on a review board established to oversee a balanced budget. Borrowing not only obligates future generations, it requires huge interest payments. As Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli pointed out yesterday, for every dollar borrowed, the state pays about $2 back.

Before that step, the legislature must make a good-faith effort to cut spending this year - unlike last year. Where is the Assembly and Senate response to Gov. David A. Paterson's 2010-11 budget? It seems clear they're hoping Ravitch's plan will bail them out of having to make tough decisions.

There are many open questions about the Ravitch plan and current budget solutions. But the lieutenant governor has made a bold bid to try to pull us back from the brink. hN

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