Albany, NY – Governor Paterson spent the last week or so doling out the "good
news" that will be in his budget. He says he'll propose a spending
cap and possibly property tax credit breaks, and will streamline
government and consolidate some smaller state agencies. He will also
seek a moratorium on so- called unfunded mandates on schools and
local governments that many have complained lead to even higher
taxes. He has also proposed allowing public colleges and universities
to set their own tuition rates, and would end a recent practice,
initiated by Paterson, of raiding tuition accounts to help close the
state's budget deficit.
What's left for Tuesday's presentation is the "bad news". The state
faces an estimated $8 billion dollar budget gap, and the governor has
warned that there will be deep cuts, likely to education and health
The State School Boards Association's Tim Kremer says schools are
bracing for the worst, and will likely have a lot to cope with when
they present their budgets to voters in the spring.
"My expectation is we'll see a cut in state aid," said Kermer. "If
that's the case, we'll have to put together some very tight budgets
for a vote in May."
The governor already proposed cutting aid to schools last year. The
legislature rejected that plan and instead borrowed from some federal
stimulus monies that were meant for the following school year.
Paterson said at the time they would have to make up for that money
by cutting more in his new spending plan.
Hospitals and other health care providers are also expecting
unpleasant news in the governor's new budget plan.
State workers are not expecting to be see their jobs cut, or given
furloughs or delayed pay raises. Steve
Madarasz, with the Civil Service Employees Association, says the
union already agreed to concessions earlier in the year, in the form
of reduced pension benefits for all future public employees.
"We have an agreement with the governor," said Madarasz, who said
union leaders are nevertheless "concerned" about what the new budget
could mean for teachers, local government workers, and others.
Governor Paterson, who was beginning to climb out from months of near
bottom level poll numbers with his no nonsense fiscal message, has in
recent days faced negative news about his personal and family life.
His campaign has reported he has just $3 million dollars for this
year's election campaign, compared to potential rival Andrew Cuomo's
$16 million dollars. Steve Greenberg, with Siena Research Institute,
says if the governor angers interest groups by cutting funding in his
new budget, his poll numbers could slide back down.
"That is a huge danger for the governor," said Greenberg, who said
it's likely that, as in past years, massive negative television ad
campaigns will be launched, and the public will turn against state's
Paterson has said he doesn't care about his own personal popularity,
only in doing what's right for the financially troubled state. That
strategy is likely to be put to the test in the coming months.