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Stop the Budget Blame Game

Faced with a financial crisis of monumental proportions, Gov. David Paterson has decided to play the blame game. The governor placed the responsibility for this impasse at the feet of the Democratic and Republican legislative leaders.

“It’s not their personalities and whether or not people get along in a professional environment is immaterial,” he said. “The issue is that neither conference has come within $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion of the cuts that we’ve put on the table. They don’t have real and recurring cuts that could pass the budget.”

The budget is now 60 days late and because of that some painful steps have already been taken. The city’s libraries will have to close their doors and only open three days a week. Senior centers across the state will close, as will state parks such as the public swimming pools at Jones Beach.

Faced with a $9.2 billion deficit, the governor was planning to furlough 100,000 state employees. That plan was blocked by the courts, but the budget crisis that led to such a drastic decision has not changed.

In an ideal world, legislative conferences could come up with a compromise budget solution. But that is not going to happen. When it became clear the state Legislature was not going to have a budge ready by the April 1 deadline, the governor should have begun meeting with state Senate Majority Conference Leader John Sampson and Minority Leader Dean Skelos to iron out a deal everyone could live with. The three men should have been meeting around the clock.

Instead, as far as we know, they have not been meeting at all. These men have failed to lead. They have allowed the state to teeter on the brink of financial ruin and all they can do is play the blame game.

We do not particularly like the idea of deal-making behind closed doors. But we have no hope that the legislative conferences will be able to solve this problem. We urge the governor, Sampson and Skelos to demonstrate real leadership. Whatever they agree upon will require painful cuts, but this will be far better than no budget at all.

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