A Candid Ravitch Warns of $25 B. Budget Gap, Hints at Tax Overhaul

Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch does not have a rosy view of the state’s finances.

Speaking Wednesday morning at N.Y.U., Mr. Ravitch, the state’s point man on the ongoing fiscal crisis, warned of tremendous new budget gaps in coming years, saying the state faces a deficit of about $25 billion over the next two-and-a-half years, about $15 billion more than previously estimated by the state.

“The State of New York, has in the remainder of this fiscal year a deficit of $4 billion–$3 or $4; people argue about it,” he said, speaking to students and transportation professionals at NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy. “Next year it’s between $7 and $8 [billion], assuming revenues level off. The year after that, when the stimulus bill no loner provides any one-shots for the State of New York, the deficit will be between $15 and $18 billion.

“These are numbers that are unprecedented.”

(As of April, the estimated deficits were zero for the current year, $2.5 billion for next year and $8.8 billion for the following year).

To hear Mr. Ravitch speak, particularly in front of a policy-focused audience, is to hear unusual candor from a top official in the state government. A private citizen until the summer, he manages to come across as if he is both freely speaking his mind–on multiple occasions he freely acknowledged his hypocrisy over budget-cutting issues on multiple occasions, and he lauded the concept of hiking the gas tax–while not offering the disparaging comments about legislators that are so tempting for someone in his position. Then again, he has a clear incentive to play up any bad news on the economy, as it makes his job of getting cuts through the legislature a bit easier when the public acknowledges that there’s a crisis and a need for shared sacrifice.

In the context of his cataclysmic estimates on the budget, he suggested the Paterson administration would consider reforming the entire tax system in the state, perhaps forming a commission to recommend a new structure.

A Candid Ravitch Warns of $25 B. Budget Gap, Hints at Tax Overhaul