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Paterson calls for $5B in cuts to close budget gap

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Gov. David Paterson on Thursday proposed $5 billion in cuts over the next two years to fill a growing state budget deficit, and the plan makes deep reductions in funding to education, health care, and state agencies.

Saying New York is “ground zero” in the financial crisis that has emptied states’ pockets across the country, Paterson outlined a plan that carves $686 million from education spending and $500 million from health care services to close the state’s $3 billion budget gap. The governor’s proposal also includes a 10 percent cut to “most” state agencies.

“There are people walking around without jobs, and there are people losing their homes,” Paterson said during an address from Albany. “We’ve got serious issues, and we’ve had to make drastic cuts to agencies and services in this state.”

Approximately 32 percent of the $686 million in cuts to education could come from New York City schools, according to Paterson and state budget director Robert Megna.

Megna added he believes the plan will not result in teacher layoffs.

State Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Little Neck) criticized Paterson’s proposal to slash education spending.

“Obviously these are desperate times, and we need to take dramatic action,” Weprin said. “However, I think mid-year cuts to the classroom are unacceptab­le.”

Weprin said education cuts to Queens classrooms could result in layoffs or program reductions.

“Most of the principals I speak to in our area are working on a shoestring budget where they have every dollar allocated,” Weprin said.

Paterson’s plan, which does not raise taxes, would need to be approved the state legislature. New York City Assembly Democrats will begin to meet Monday to discuss the governor’s budget proposal, Weprin said.

Other proposed cuts include $287 million to Medicaid,$28 million to social service programs, $67 million to local governments, $125 million to transportation, and $62 million to higher education.

“Skyrocketing unemployment has resulted in record increases in college enrollments,” state Sens. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), Darrel Aubertine (D-Oswego), Neil Breslin (D-Albany), Brian Foley (D-Long Island), Suzi Oppenheimer (D-Port Chester), William Stachowski (D-Buffalo), and David Valesky (D-Oneida) said in a prepared statement. “This is not the time to make disproportionate cuts to higher education … We believe this is an unfair burden on New York’s students and the state’s economic future.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

Posted 6:29 pm, October 10, 2011
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