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Paterson budget cuts unfair to city residents: Liu, mayor

Gov. David Paterson is taking aim at the state’s education, health care and even its soda sales to fix New York state’s $7.4 billion budget deficit, but the mayor and city Comptroller John Liu say he may be going too far.

During a visit to the Albany Legislature Monday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg denounced Paterson’s proposal to cut billions from school aid, Medicaid and city governments. He noted that New York City provides the state with the most revenue of all of its counties and deserved a bigger share of the budget.

“They take our money and give us little back and expect us to say thank you,” he said.

Liu agreed with the mayor and suggested that Paterson has other options to solve New York’s financial crisis. In a statement released last week, the comptroller said the governor could go into the state’s rainy day fund instead of targeting taxpayers.

“[W]ith more than $1 billion set aside in the state’s rainy day fund, it’s time to recognize that it is now pouring rain, and the use of these rainy day funds can and must be managed more tightly,” he said in a statement.

Paterson announced this year’s budget proposals Jan. 19, which included $5.5 billion in spending reductions and $1 billion in increased taxes and fees.

“Significant spending reductions are necessary if we want to emerge from this crisis and build a strong fiscal and economic recovery,” the governor said in a statement.

Roughly $1.1 billion would be cut from the state’s School Aid budget that would be based on local school district wealth and student need, according to Paterson. Another major cut calls for $1 billion in Medicaid savings, including a reduction to providers and health programs.

The cuts could pose a serious problem in Queens, which lost three hospitals close last year when the state Department of Health ordered the financially shaky institutions to close.

Another billion dollars would be trimmed from the budget by implementing $500 million in additional across-the-board agency cuts and $250 million in negotiated workforce savings, the governor said.

Not all of Paterson’s efforts to close the budget gap included cuts, with the governor targeted items that pose a health risk in his new tax initiatives.

The governor has proposed a $1 per pack increase on the cigarette tax, which he said would provide the state with $218 million in revenue. Paterson said he would be taxing soda and other sugared beverages with a penny per ounce levy on the drinks.

“Together, through shared sacrifice, we will move forward toward a more hopeful and optimistic future for New York,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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