Paterson To New Yorkers: Encourage Lawmakers To Cut Budget (Updated)

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With the state budget deadline blown today, Gov. David Paterson sought a conciliatory tone with lawmakers in an address to New Yorkers, encouraging the public to support their elected officials if they cut state spending.

“I urge all of you New Yorkers to contact your local legislators and not to criticize them,” Paterson said in an Web video.

“But rather to remind them that just as you have had to make the tough choices for yourselves and your families, now they have to make those difficult decisions for the state.”

The state’s fiscal year starts Thursday, but the Legislature left Albany earlier this week on a 10-day holiday recess, leaving no chance of an on-time spending plan for the 2010-11 fiscal year.

Paterson and legislators have been at odds over how to close a $9.2 billion budget gap for the fiscal year that started Thursday. Paterson is delaying $2.1 billion in school-aid payments and aid for construction projects because of the late budget.

But rather than knock lawmakers as he has done during prior budget negotiations, Paterson aimed in the address to bring along lawmakers so they would support his plan to cut about $1.4 billion in aid to schools, as well as cuts to health care and other services.

The Democratic governor suggested that in an election year, legislators may be reluctant to cut aid to programs.

“I don’t think that the barrier is their inability to grasp the gravity of our current financial woes, rather I think my colleagues are nervous about the costs of making these tough decisions,” he said.

Updated: Fixes video below.

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Paterson said the plan put forth by lawmakers doesn’t cut enough and borrows too much. That puts him at odds with his own Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch, who has recommended $2 billion in borrowing to help the state weather its fiscal troubles.

“We cannot accept a budget that cripples the state for our next generation, and I will not accept a budget that rewards special interests, allowing them to not make the same sacrifices that average New Yorkers make everyday,” Paterson said.

Senate Republicans ripped the Democratic-led Legislature for not working through the holiday week to get a budget deal. Lawmakers aren’t scheduled to return to Albany until April 7.

“Rather than work around the clock to get a budget done on time, Democrats in the Senate and Assembly waved the white flag and simply gave up,” Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, said in a statement.

But Democrats said they continue to work on getting a budget deal done. Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson, D-Brooklyn, was scheduled to meet with Ravitch this evening.

“The Senate is working to give New York a fair and responsible budget that controls spending, provides property tax relief, creates jobs and protects our investment in health care and education,” said Sampson spokesman Austin Shafran.

Paterson also indicated that a sound budget is better than one on time.

“I cannot overstate the magnitude of the fiscal problems confronting this state,” he said. “And so I will continue to stand up for the taxpayers, even if it means that our budget is late because a responsible budget is more important than what time it is actually passed.”

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