Paterson: Next Governor’s Legacy Would Be to Keep State Solvent

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Asked about what he wants to accomplish before his term expires at year’s end, Gov. David Paterson said he wants to keep the state away from the types of cuts other states have had to make.

Paterson, speaking in Albany after signing a health-care proxy bill, said 42 states have had to lay off or furlough workers and a dozen are planning to shorten the school week because of budget woes.

But New York, he said, has not had to take any of those steps. Other states have had early release programs for prisoners, cut early childhood programs and shortened the court calendar, he said.

“New York has not had to do any of that to this point,” Paterson said, adding that the state’s credit rating remains strong and that payments are being made.

He added that, “if we can continue to do that through the end of this year, then I think that would be an appropriate legacy for the next governor to keep this state afloat and not have to have some of the ramifications of the recession that other states have endured.”

But the state faces a growing short-term cash problem, Paterson said.

He said the state’s budget gap for the fiscal year that ends March 31 has ballooned from $1.4 billion to $2.1 billion, meaning once again payments will be delayed to local agencies and governments.

And he said income-tax payments may also have to be delayed.

“The day of reckoning has come. We have to find a way to make these payments,” Paterson said. “We don’t have any available resources.”

The increased deficit, part of a $9.2 billion budget gap for the 2010-11 fiscal year, comes after the Aqueduct Race Track deal fell apart ($300 million), the deal revenue from the Battery Park City Authority didn’t happen ($200 million) and a tax-amnesty program has only brought in about $25 million of the $250 million expected.

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