Paterson: Our New Target is $3.2 Billion

ALBANY—The mid-year budget deficit has now grown to $3.2 billion, and an estimated $6.8 billion next year, David Paterson said at a leaders meeting.

“We now have a $10 billion budget deficit. The plan that I issued just two weeks ago reduces that deficit by half,” Paterson said. “In this period of time, I recognize the need for deliberation and also the legislative prerogative hold hearings to exact public input. And I have tried to be patient with that, in spite of the fact that we’re up against a mid- December deadline.”

“We cannot afford to not make these cuts,” he added.

The number is higher than the $2.1 billion projected in July, and higher than the $3 billion figure Paterson has been using at leaders meetings. Yesterday, Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch predicted $25 billion in deficit over the next two-and-a-half years, which seems in line with this estimate. (Ravitch, at the leaders meeting, said $3.2 billion this year is “a responsible number to shoot at.”)

The rest of the meeting–which started nearly 30 minutes late because Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson was tardy–was similar to past meetings. Sampson hemmed and hawed, talking after bait by Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb about the need to “understand that the people bearing these cuts have a voice” and that “we’re not with cutting services to children, to seniors, education. These are things that will have serious impact upon our constituents in the state of New York.”

Paterson said to Sampson: “In the state of California they heard from the people in that state. They had a referendum, about what they would cut, and they got nothing–except the legislators’ salaries. Which they did.”

Toward the end of the meeting, Sheldon Silver took exception with a suggestion David Paterson made that higher income taxes–which Silver pushed–are driving people out of the state. It was kind of awkward.

Paterson is sticking by his declaration that legislators come back to Albany on Nov. 10, after he addresses a joint session of the legislature. He expects them to abide.

“We haven’t totally agreed on the plan, but I thought they stated their intention to come back and be serious,” Paterson said. “I don’t think there’s any need to speculate: they’ll come back, and we’ll stay there until we get it done.”