In an address to the Council on Foreign Relations this afternoon, Governor David Paterson once characterized himself as the voice of reason in a "very, very, very difficult time," and argued that the painful, and unpopular, budget cuts he had proposed would need to go ahead regardless of opposition pressure.
"It's very difficult to try and impress this on those who are being asked to make a sacrifice," Paterson told an audience of bankers, politicians and advocates. "They will be going on television with ads, probably reprinted from two years ago, when the budget deficit was 20 percent of what it is now, almost as if they never heard of a financial crisis."
Later, during a question-and-answer period with CFR members, Paterson added, "You will probably see some commercials in the next few days when real people will look in the camera and ask me 'how can you do this?' It's not how I'm doing it. It's 'let's be revenue neutral. I'm ready to negotiate. I'm ready to be flexible.'"
During the event, Mr. Paterson was also asked for a response to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's appeal to Albany for funds to help prevent the firing of nearly 14,000 teachers.
"I think that if we do get stimulus money back from the federal government it will go a long way to ameliorate the issue of 14,000 teachers," said Paterson. "I think there are ways in which the city among other entities was hit a little harder than other parts of the state, and there are ways in which the city was hit less than other parts of the state. So there is a holistic remedy that we have to discuss. We got together with the mayor last Wednesday and had a very productive conversation. And we will go forward as well. And I am guilty of this just as much of the mayor. But you have to tell everyone that you have to understand the cuts you are giving and then you look to the source beyond you, and act just like the advocates that you were lecturing. But I've done that to the federal government as well, so I'm just as guilty as the mayor."
Paterson then laughed and the audience chuckled with him.
In a press conference after the event, Paterson was again asked about the SEIU commercials, but specifically about whether the inclusion of a blind person expressing a grievance with the governor in the ad was inappropriate.
"I don't think it's below the belt," said Paterson. "I think it's trying to make the point that there are a number of disabled people who are going to be impacted based on the cuts."
He added, "Obviously when I watch the commercials I will be in many respects as affected as other people watching the commercials because there is going to be some misery in this sacrifice, statewide."