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Dread times aheadGov.: 'It's tough, but at least it's not California'

Nayaba Arinde | 4/12/2011, 4:36 p.m.

"I am trying to avoid a problem so unimaginable that no one is talking about," Gov. David A. Paterson told the Amsterdam News, after he announced his $5 billion deficit reduction plan. "If you go to California, they are closing schools and they are shutting down nursing homes. And the state is fighting off bankruptcy. I am very sympathetic to those who are going to have to endure the cuts. But it is the best course because the alternative is what's going on in California and other states that New Yorkers don't know about. I don't want to minimize the pain in New York, but it's a lot worse in other places."

Declaring that he is "surviving" the verbal slings and arrows slung after the announcement of his budget, Paterson told the AmNews, "These are probably more painful cuts than the state has had to endure probably since the Great Depression. But, this time the cuts will be administered fairly so that everybody is hurt by the cuts; everybody will have to sacrifice."

A statement from Paterson's office outlined the two-year $5 billion deficit reduction plan (DRP), explaining that it "would have a current-year impact of $3 billion in 2009-'10 and a recurring impact of $2 billion in 2010-'11.

Stating that education is a priority for the governor, the reduction to school aid would be limited to 4.5 percent of remaining, undisbursed payments for the current fiscal year. Specifically the 2009-'10 programmatic impact of the $1.3 billion, across-the-board local assistance reduction includes: a $480 million state fiscal year cut to school districts ($686 million on a 2009-'10 school-year basis); a $287 million cut to Medicaid; a $184 million cut to other health and mental hygiene programs; a $28 million cut to social service programs; a $67 million cut to Aid and Incentives to Municipalities; a $125 million cut to transportation programs; a $62 million cut to higher education programs; and other reductions.

"We are not balancing the budget on the backs of the people, which is what we've done before," Paterson insisted.

But how can the huddling masses and the working poor not be disproportionately affected by the severe cuts to education, Medicaid and public transportation via the MTA?

"We taxed New Yorkers who make over $300,000 a year one level, those who make over $500,000 a higher level, and those who make a billion dollars a year a higher level than that," said the governor. "We cancelled the property tax rebate, which created a stampede of middle-class people leaving homes in New York City and all around the state. So if you look at all the cuts together, we hit everybody."

There are those who still shout loud and often that it is the wealthy--the millionaires--who should bear the brunt.

Paterson said that had been tried, but, "The reason is the revenues are down. The people who we tried to tax, some of them are unemployed and others moved out of the state. So the tax resources aren't available anymore. It got us some money, but it didn't get s what we expected us to get. We hit them pretty hard. Believe me, they've been screaming about that. But, the recent cuts, 95 percent of the school districts have reserve funds that will cover this," Paterson assured. "What we did with the school taxes that has really never been done before, is we apportioned the tax based on the ability of the school district to sustain it. And so for those school districts that don't have any reserve funds, they will get minor reductions. For those wealthier school districts, they'll take the brunt of the reduction plans.