Nov 10, 2009 6:18 am US/Eastern
Paterson: NYS Will Be Broke Before Christmas
Gov. David Paterson told the state Legislature on Nov. 9, 2009, if there aren't immediate cuts made to education and hospitals New York State will be broke before Christmas
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NY Gov. Paterson Calls Legislature Back To Session
Governor David Paterson called an unusual joint session of the Legislature Monday to implore recalcitrant lawmakers to close the state's huge budget gap before New York runs out of money.
To some lawmakers it's nothing more than a photo op to help Paterson get re-elected. But the governor is dead serious. He said if the Legislature doesn't cut the budget now the state could run out of money by next month.
"We're going to run out of cash in four and a half weeks. We are going to run out of money. Unless we do something about it, (it will) threaten generations," Paterson said.
And so began what is turning out to be a tense tug of war between Gov. Paterson and the Legislature.
The governor says $3.2 billion in cuts must be enacted how -- or else. The cuts range from $500 million in agency spending to over $1 billion in already committed in aid to school districts and hospitals.
"I will mortgage my political career, but I will not mortgage the fate of the State of New York," Paterson said.
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But Senate Democrats, with their tenuous 32-30 hold on the upper house, are terrified to make school and hospital cuts because, they said, the cuts could mean increases in local property taxes.
And that could mean suburban Democrats on Long Island, in Westchester and other parts of the state could have trouble getting re-elected next year.
Remember, high property taxes led to the ouster of many suburban Democrats last week, including Westchester County Executive Andy Spano. Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi could also lose once absentee ballots are counted.
"Personally, I do not favor mid-year school cuts," said State Sen. Pedro Espada, D-Bronx.
"Last year, in the midst of this financial crisis, the Senate and the Assembly together with the governor decided to raise spending by $12 billion," added Sen. Andrew Lanza, R-Staten Island.
"I'd rather present 96 or 97 percent of a check to school districts, to hospitals than to have them call up and say where's my check? And the state says, sorry, we didn't have any money," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan.
The governor has ordered lawmakers into special session Tuesday to close the budget gap. Right now there is no agreement and he could flex his muscles by keeping them here until there is.
Also on the agenda Tuesday are bills to legalize gay marriage, toughen drunk-driving laws, impose a cap on state spending and reform the state's public authorities.