CLIFTON PARK—At a campaign event for Scott Murphy, the Democratic candidate for the congressional seat vacated by Kirsten Gillibrand, Chuck Schumer smiled and jingled the change in his pockets when Murphy brought up the $24.6 billion New York would receive from the federal stimulus package.
Schumer has been riding high these past few days, giving a particularly passionate speech last night before the New York Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, and gobbling up the lion's share among state officials of media attention related to the stimulus.
In doing so, he's coming very close to stepping on David Paterson's toes. The governor will have the largest hand in distributing the money from Washington, and has been all over the map about how he will do so.
Schumer has previously warned against "robbing Peter to pay Paul," taking the position that both spending cuts and tax increases take money out of economy.
Asked after the event about how the stimulus money should be used in the state budget, Schumer said, "The first job is twofold. One, prevent tax increases. We cannot afford at a time of recession to have large tax increases. Second, to use it to prevent massive layoffs. You can't have teachers, firefighters, cops, laid off in a time of recession. It should be used to mitigate the dangers we face from tax increases and the large kind of layoffs which the state government would have to do on its own."
I asked Schumer if that is out of sync with what Paterson has said.
"Let me just say that the stimulus package is very good news for New York State, for the 20th Congressional District and localities," Schumer said. He pointed to provisions in the final bill (and said getting them was a "crusade") that funnel money to counties and localities.
"The governor is right in this sense: the economic stimulus is not enough to solve all our problems," Schumer said. "We're still going to have to really pare down and make some of the difficult decisions that the governor has proposed. It will alleviate. Instead of a meat axe, you can use a scalpel."