Attempts to reach a compromise between Governor David Paterson and the leading Republicans in the state senate on the budget crisis were unsuccessful. Senate Republicans, led by majority leader Dean Skelos, had threatened to vote on the governor’s plan for cuts in several state services and programs. “But nothing happened,” said Assemblyman Keith Wright. “There was no action on the plan because the Republicans don’t want to take the blame. They don’t want to play ball, realizing they will soon be in the minority.” When asked about the planned cuts, particularly to health services and education, Wright defended the governor. “He’s caught between a rock and a hard place, but he must be commended for not cutting public assistance and Medicaid, which is one-third of the budget.” Everybody wants cuts, but not from their program, Wright added. “On December 18, we will probably see the same cuts from the governor,” he said, but they will apply to both this fiscal year and the next. Paterson is faced with a $14 billion budget deficit that the state expects through 2010. The cuts in health services and education have caused the biggest reaction, particularly from major advocacy groups for education.
“Taking $5,000 to $12,000 out of a child’s classroom in the middle of the year will be devastating,” said Billy Easton, executive director, Alliance for Quality Education. “The governor could be making a much bigger effort to protect our school children, but instead he is protecting the highest income earners in the state. Governor Paterson could raise as much as $5 billion by asking New Yorker’s highest income earners to pay a little more in taxes. The governor’s proposal calls on every school child to sacrifice in order to help state government; how about asking the Wall Street bankers who created this fiscal crisis to do their part in order to help protect school children?”
The governor’s proposed cuts for New York City school children are $252 per pupil, $318 per pupil in high-need small cities and suburbs, $334 per pupil in average-need districts and $335 per pupil in high-need rural districts, according to one advocacy report. The education groups are calling on the legislature to reject Governor Paterson’s cuts and to seek a comprehensive solution to the fiscal crisis that involves increasing revenues.
“We cannot cut our way out of this fiscal crisis. We need our elected leaders to take a responsible and balanced approach and not balance the budget on the backs of our school children,” said Geri D. Palast, executive director, Campaign for Fiscal Equity. Meanwhile, the governor is forced to make a tough decision since, as he said, no one has “offered proposals that reduce one dime in spending.”