Despite a budget deal in the Legislature, the state’s fiscal problems are far from over and the state still faces running out of money this month, Gov. David Paterson said today.
Paterson continued his vow to independently delay payments to schools, health care and local governments because lawmakers didn’t make deep enough cuts in the $2.7 billion budget-reduction package approved Wednesday.
But Paterson’s decision is facing criticism from advocacy groups and Senate Democrats, who said the Democratic governor doesn’t have the legal authority to delay aid approved in April by the Legislature and the governor in the 2009-10 budget.
“I think the governor is trying to deal with the serious fiscal crisis, but I’m confident he doesn’t want to take actions which are illegal,” said Sen. Eric Schneiderman, D-Manhattan, citing a 1980 state Court of Appeals decision.
Paterson said he and his lawyers believe he can withhold payments if he makes them across the board to all agencies. Paterson indicated he could start delaying payments as early as next week, but aides said no decisions have been made on which programs would be impacted.
Schneiderman said the Legislature could be party to a lawsuit if one is brought against the governor, and suggested that a group impacted by the delayed payments would likely take the case to court.
The state faces a $3.2 billion budget deficit, leaving at least a $500 million gap before the fiscal year ends March 31. Additionally, the state, Paterson said, has an immediate cash-flow problem and doesn’t have the money to pay all its bills this month.
As a result, Paterson said he will have to unilaterally withhold payments—despite the Legislature’s decision to not make mid-year cuts to schools. In a series of radio interviews, he also indicated he would ask the Legislature to make the delayed payments permanent cuts in the 2010-11 fiscal year, which starts April 1.
“They didn’t cut the schools, but at the same time the payments that will have to be delayed will be far more painful for the schools than what the legislators were saying that they avoided,” Paterson said on 1180-AM (WHAM).