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Queens pols question guv’s $5B budget plan

Gov. David Paterson last Thursday proposed $5 billion in cuts over the next two years to fill a growing state budget deficit, and the plan makes deep reductions in funding to education, health care and state agencies.

Saying New York is “ground zero” in the financial crisis that has emptied states’ pockets across the country, Paterson outlined a plan that carves $686 million from education spending and $500 million from health care services to close the state’s $3 billion budget gap. The governor’s proposal also includes a 10 percent cut to “most” state agencies.

“There are people walking around without jobs, and there are people losing their homes,” Paterson said during an address from Albany. “We’ve got serious issues, and we’ve had to make drastic cuts to agencies and services in this state.”

The perennially strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York City schools were targeted for perhaps some of the heaviest financial blows.

The MTA, itself the beneficiary of a life-saving financial bailout last spring and facing interest from borrowing $24 billion, would see $113 million cut and New York City schools would lose $223.2 million.

Health, mental health and social services would lose $500 million.

Megna added he believes the plan will not result in teacher layoffs.

State Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Little Neck) criticized Paterson’s proposal to slash education spending.

“Obviously, these are desperate times, and we need to take dramatic action,” Weprin said. “However, I think mid-year cuts to the classroom are unacceptable.”

Weprin said education cuts to Queens classrooms could result in layoffs or program reductions.

“Most of the principals I speak to in our area are working on a shoestring budget where they have every dollar allocated,” Weprin said.

Paterson’s plan, which does not raise taxes, would need to be approved by the state Legislature. Assembly Democrats from New York City began to meet this week to discuss the governor’s budget proposal, Weprin said.

Some of the proposed debt reduction would not be through cuts. Paterson calculates that after a deal is closed on installation of a gambling casino at the Aqueduct Race Track, the winning bidder would pay at least $200 million to the state.

The governor said an amnesty for tax delinquents and cheats would produce another $250 million.

Otherwise, the cuts would take more than $3 million from library programs as well as tens of millions from health plans, including those concerned with covering HIV and AIDS.

Medicaid would be cut by $287 million throughout the state.

Aid to the City University of New York system would be trimmed by $10 million.

“Skyrocketing unemployment has resulted in record increases in college enrollments,” state Sens. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), Darrel Aubertine (D-Oswego), Neil Breslin (D-Albany), Brian Foley (D-Hauppauge), Suzi Oppenheimer (D-Port Chester), William Stachowski (D-Buffalo) and David Valesky (D-Oneida) said in a prepared statement. “This is not the time to make disproportionate cuts to higher education .%u2026 We believe this is an unfair burden on New York’s students and the state’s economic future.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

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