Paterson Gets No Slack From Farrell on Education Cuts

ALBANY—The chairman of the State Assembly Ways and Means Committee took a strong stance against David Paterson's proposed cuts to education.

Assemblyman Denny Farrell, a longtime associate and ally of the governor’s father, made his comments while questioning Brian McMahon, executive director of the New York State Economic Development Council at a hearing this morning, after McMahon spoke about the importance of a strong workforce for attracting businesses to the state.

"To keep that quality workforce, we have to keep educating," Farrell said. "They can't get to college if they can't get to kindergarten."

"We have to spend more on education. It's not something we do because we want to buy the Cadillac of education—notice I didn't say Lexus, I said Cadillac—we need to make sure that we continue to educate. Right now, they're going to North Carolina, the companies that do go down, all they're going to do is go down there and drive their taxes up, because North Carolina is going to have to educate on the level that we're educating."

He concluded: "Education seems to be the base of all the other things that we do."

David Paterson announced $5.2 billion in cuts to various state programs yesterday, included an $800 million reduction in promised aid for schools. Union leaders and school districts quickly made the case that mid-year cuts would cause them considerable pain.

Farrell's comments were echoed by many of the half dozen members of the panel, including Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry and Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito. Yesterday, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver called today's hearings, and said in a statement that "the Assembly will not shrink from tough choices and plans to confront New York's fiscal crisis head-on, based on the principle of shared sacrifice."

Majority Leader Dean Skelos, the Republican leader of the State Senate (for now), took a much harder line on education cuts, saying late yesterday he is "personally ruling them out."

The hearing indicates some Assembly Democrats are following suit.