Paterson to propose new round of cuts

A state government shutdown averted, Gov. David A. Paterson came right back at lawmakers Tuesday, saying he will offer a new round of program cuts affecting economic development, public protection and transportation.

The governor wants lawmakers to approve the latest round of cuts before they leave the Capitol this week, breaking with the last two months of emergency spending measures proposed on Fridays and enacted under deadline pressure on Mondays.

“I’m trying not to put a gun to the legislators’ head, … but legislators keep shying away from making the tough choices,” Paterson said in a conference call Tuesday.

"I'm trying not to put a gun to the legislators' head … but legislators keep shying away from making the tough choices," Gov. David A. Paterson said in a conference call this morning.

"I'm trying not to put a gun to the legislators' head … but legislators keep shying away from making the tough choices," Gov. David A. Paterson said in a conference call this morning.

The governor declined to provide specifics on his next round of savings, but they could include initiatives such as the Empire Zone economic-development program used by thousands of businesses across the state.

The governor was open to a new effort to begin collecting taxes on cigarette sales by Indian retailers. Sources say the plan under consideration could begin as soon as Sept. 1, with the hope of raising as much as $100 million for the state as it deals with a $9.2 billion deficit.

But Paterson criticized some legislators who insist that the Indian tax collections could be worth $2 billion for the state — which would wipe out the remaining differences over the budget between the Legislature and governor. The legislators’ attempt to estimate more cigarette tax revenues than are realistic to collect is just “phonying up” the debate, the governor said.

Paterson and Assembly Democrats also want to raise the state’s cigarette excise tax by $1 per pack.

More than half the budget has been adopted through the emergency bills, but many sticky issues remain, and the governor acknowledges he has his limits on how far he will go with his strategy of drawing a line in the sand.

Paterson proposes the emergency spending bills — there have been 11 since the state began its fiscal year April 1 without a budget — and the Legislature votes on them but cannot make changes.

The biggest decision Paterson could leave for the Legislature would be an emergency bill that included his proposed $1.4 billion cut to public schools.

The governor said he does not plan to put the school aid cuts into the next emergency bill because he wants to give legislative leaders a bit more time to strike their own deal.

“I wasn’t going to dump billions of dollars of cuts into an extender, which I think would be trying to gouge the Legislature or be abusive,” he said.

Paterson said he is selecting different program areas for cuts in the extender bills that involve issues that legislators generally are willing to cut in the current economic climate.

source: Associated Press

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