Gov. David Paterson’s office said today that the New York State United Teachers and other school groups are seeking a delay in their lawsuit that claims Paterson is illegally withholding school aid because he said the state is running out of money.
It prompted this statement from Paterson’s spokesman Morgan Hook:
“When NYSUT’s lawyer went before a New York State Supreme Court judge on December 16, he argued for this case to be heard on December 23, because he said the impact of the Governor’s actions was ‘immediate and severe’ and that ‘layoff notices are going out.’ His request was denied. Now, less than two weeks later, this same legal team wants to delay the case even longer,” Hook said.
“Clearly, dire warnings of ‘immediate and severe’ consequences were nothing more than scare tactics.”
NYSUT vice president Alan Lubin told the Daily News that they simply want more time to discuss the case and that there are no plans to drop the lawsuit unless Paterson agrees to pay back the money.
The lawsuit was filed earlier this month after Paterson, in an unprecedented move, withheld $750 million in payments to local schools and governments, saying the state is running out of money, which Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli today indicated is happening.
The school groups sued, saying the money was adopted as part of the 2009-10 budget and can’t be illegally withheld, something Senate Democrats also agree with but didn’t join the lawsuit.
Paterson said the money would be paid back if the state has the money to do so.
“Governor Paterson took bold action to ensure the state did not run out of cash and to protect New Yorkers from special interests who are looking to maintain the status quo for their own benefit and to the detriment of the people of New York,” Hook said. Governor Paterson will not allow the state to run out of money on his watch.”
Updated: Here’s NYSUT’s statement.
“The issue of whether the state must meet its obligation to students and school districts is a serious one that goes beyond posturing and politics.
“Since NYSUT and a coalition of education groups filed suit on December 16, the Governor, in his public statements and legal papers, has stated that school aid payments would likely be made in mid-January, protecting student services from harm; employees from layoff notices and New Yorkers from higher property taxes—all of which would have resulted if school aid payments had been withheld indefinitely.
Our main concern has been, and always will be, ensuring that school districts receive the state aid lawfully approved by the Legislature . A brief postponement in the legal proceedings should not be read as anything more than time needed to respond to the state’s gratifying change in its position.”