WASHINGTON – Gov. David Paterson said Wednesday that the state will take an “even handed” approach in reducing spending next year.
Niagara Falls and Buffalo will face proportional cuts compared to the rest of the state,he said.
“We will not touch the infusion of money sent this year to help the region survive,” Paterson said to reporters at a news conference.
The governor was in Washington to testify before the House Ways and Means Committee about economic recovery and jobs through investment. Other witnesses included the governor of South Carolina,the mayor of Trenton,N.J.,and the president of the American Federation of Teachers. New Jersey Gov. John Corzine,in town for a separate congressional appearance,joined Paterson at a news conference after their testimony.
In his testimony,Paterson implored Congress to act next month to pass “direct and immediate fiscal relief” to aid New York and other ailing states in the form of another economic stimulus package.
“Just like the financial services industry,we need a partner in the federal government in order to help stave off an impending calamity and stabilize our fiscal condition,” Paterson said.
As part of that package,Paterson asked Congress to include modernization of the unemployment insurance system,a temporary boost in funding for the Food Stamp program and a moratorium on federal regulations that harm state budgets.
He called for additional infrastructure funding and water improvement projects,and said that replacing and updating New York's municipal wastewater infrastructure will cost $36.2 billion over the next 20 years.
Paterson's testimony followed Tuesday's announcement that New York State faces a $12.3 billion deficit in fiscal year 2009 and a $47 billion budget gap in the next four years.
Last year,the state paid $86.9 million more in taxes to the federal government than it received in federal aid. Paterson said that the state has been “shortchanged for years when it comes to aid from Washington.”
The governor said that economic downturn will produce long-term negative consequences for the state,such as an increase in Medicaid costs.
“Unfortunately,the cruel irony is that,at the time when citizens need their state governments the most,state governments are least equipped to help them because of plummeting revenues,” he said.
The governor said that,without federal intervention,municipalities will be hit especially hard by the deficit,citing that 70 percent of the state budget goes to local assistance.
“Massive sudden reductions in state budgets will reverberate across all levels of government,from the largest cities to the smallest school districts,” he said.
Next month,the state legislature will convene in an emergency session and attempt to cut an additional $2 billion from this year's state budget. Paterson said he will propose “the largest spending reductions in state history” for next year's budget.
“There is no doubt we are currently in a statewide recession. And if history is any guide,the recession will be more severe and longer lasting in New York State than it is in the nation as a whole,” he said.
The stimulus would help significantly,Paterson said.
“It could make the difference between targeted,surgical spending reductions that will help heal our fiscal condition and massive and wide ranging cuts that will cause irreparable damage to millions of families,” he said.