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Queens pols high-five Ravitch’s budget

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Queens legislators said they were impressed by Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch’s proposal to reform the state’s budget process, although they had their doubts about how many of his recommendations would see the light of day.

As Gov. David Paterson battled allegations that he interfered in a domestic violence case involving a top aide and that he lied about receiving free World Series tickets in 2009, Ravitch last week called for drastic changes to help the state right its finances over five years.

The plan calls for a switch to the “Generally Accepted Accounting Practices” used by New York City, pushing the state’s fiscal year back to July 1, establishing an independent commission to review the state Legislature’s budget proposal and a five-year borrowing plan to help shore up the deficit.

As the April 1 deadline for a balanced budget nears — amid looming doubts that legislators will have an agreement before the Easter and Passover holidays take them away from state business — members of the Queens Delegation in Albany said they are considering Ravitch’s suggestions seriously, but have qualms about the borrowing.

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) said she had been pushing the state to adopt the GAAP model for years. But she also warned Ravitch’s plan to limit state borrowing to about $2 billion each year would not solve New York’s problem this year.

“There are going to be significant cuts to health care and to education,” she said. “And the reason is simple: That’s almost 60 percent of budget.”

State Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said the plan will be taken seriously, but criticized the lack of specific guidelines for spending reductions.

“The big problem we’re facing is we’re spending too much money, more than we have,” he said.

Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) said adopting the different accounting practices “would reduce a lot of the gamesmanship and gimmickry which people see in the state’s budget process.”

But he criticized the notion of an independent panel watching over the process.

“I’ve become very disabused of any belief in independent panels of wise men,” he said. “They are always as political as the legislative process itself.”

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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