ALBANY—David Paterson just held a press conference to attack education groups who are suing him, saying the “special interests” have joined legislators who “stuck their heads in the sand.”
“What these groups have said is, ‘We’re not special interests, we’re extra special,’” Paterson said in the Red Room. “We’re supposed to get all of the money, and everyone else can just divide up the crumbs.”
On Sunday, Paterson announced he was unilaterally stalling $750 million in payments to school districts and localities. The governor and his aides reiterated the legal justification for his actions: the budget bills passed this year (and since 1995) say that “all of the payments will be pending based on the determination of the budget director; that the budget director can certify the payments.”
Bob Megna, Paterson’s budget director, has certified the money is not there this year. Peter Kiernan, the governor’s counsel, told me after Paterson spoke that since the governor is just delaying payments, the state is still in compliance with a court ruling requiring it to provide a “sound, basic education” by providing more funding.
When prompted, Paterson attacked the proposals offered by the groups: more taxation or borrowing, and the possibility of buying prescription drugs from Canada.
“How many times have we been over this point? This is like the poster of desperation for special interests. They always cite the prescription drugs from Canada!” Paterson said. He noted the U.S. Department of Justice has ruled this is unlawful. “Illegal. Illegal! So if I wanted to buy illegal drugs, I don’t have to go to Canada to do it.”
“What I’m attempting to do is show the public that I can manage in a crisis,” he said.
“I’m not going to let this state run out of money…no matter how much they try to hoodwink and cajole the public, I’m going to keep telling the public the truth about the state’s finances.”