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Lancman, Padavan oppose health, education cuts

State Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D−Fresh Meadows) and state Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose) hail from different sides of the aisle, but they are pushing a similar message when it comes to the state budget: The state should not cut health and education services, a move Gov. David Paterson has said may be necessary to close a $12.5 billion budget gap next year.

“There’s no need to go into health and education,” Lancman said.

Padavan, who still does not know whether he will be returning to Albany in January, agreed, saying there are plenty of places the state can carve from without touching health and education.

“There are obviously places we can save money while not affecting the essential services we provide in education and health care,” Padavan said in an interview. “For example, the comptroller’s report says there are 30,000 people who no longer live in the city who are receiving Medicaid benefits. That’s a billion dollars saved right there. We should be collecting taxes from Indian reservations, which by law they’re supposed to provide us. That’s another billion dollars.”

Lancman said the state can save billions by implementing systemic changes instead of looking for quick fixes by cutting aid for health and education.

“We can look to closing under−utilized prisons and reorganizing the courts,” Lancman said.

Other legislators have not ruled out cuts to health and education, which represent the largest budget expenditures for the state. Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D−Forest Hills) did not say whether or not he agreed with Paterson’s recent call for a $5.2 billion budget reduction over the next 16 months, with significant cuts to Medicaid and education, but he did say there would need to be “painful cuts.”

“The governor has projected a $47 billion deficit over the next four years,” Hevesi said last week. “That’s a big number.”

Paterson and lawmakers failed to close an approximate $2 billion budget hole in the 2008−09 spending plan when they convened in Albany for a special session last week. Legislators will come together once again Dec. 15 to discuss a state budget that has been hit hard by the Wall Street meltdown.

“Hopefully by Dec. 15 the governor will have specific proposals that we can vote on,” Padavan said. “At the last session there was nothing. The governor had made no recommendations that could be voted on.”

Paterson has complained that state senators, especially GOP members, have failed to put forward any plans of their own to deal with the economic crisis that could cause more than 175,000 city residents to lose their jobs over the next year, according to a new report by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. Democrats have accused Republican senators of not wanting to act on unpopular budget cuts before they lose control of the Senate.

Legislators said it is important for residents to communicate their wishes for next year’s budget.

To communicate more effectively with residents, Lancman has launched a blog, fiscalfairness.blogspot.com, which focuses entirely on the budget.

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