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Governor releases budget proposal: Plans to eliminate deficit in two years

By Philip Anselmo

A law that would enforce the collection of taxes on the sale of cigarettes by Indian-owned retailers was merely the beginning. Gov. David Paterson today unveiled a $121 billion budget proposal that plans to eliminate the state's $15 billion deficit over the course of the next two years through a hefty dose of cuts and creative taxation.

From the Democrat & Chronicle:

Paterson is calling for massive cuts to state education and health-care aid, an elimination of a property-tax rebate program for homeowners and 88 new taxes and fees.

Put a little more bluntly, with a bit of spleen, by the Buffalo News:

Aid to public schools will be cut by $700 million, state university tuition will rise, the STAR property tax rebates will be scrubbed, prison facilities will close and state workers who aren't laid off will get no pay raises under a budget plan Gov. David Paterson proposed this morning.

Cuts in school aid would total about $700 million, which has some education officials already worried that the loss will need to be offset by increases in local property taxes. Although their worry sounds more like a threat that we're sure to soon see manifested in television advertisements. You know the kind. We've seen them before. For example: Imagine something along the lines of a school playground at recess: the children, the glee, the games. Then, cut to a close-up of Paterson, overlaid with a sombre voice detailing some aspect or other of the budget proposal, followed by the post-apocalyptic image of an empty swing, rocking back and forth in the middle of the now empty playground. Or something like that.

Although, at least Paterson delivered his posion pill with an olive branch. Or so the Buffalo News would have it (note the language: make up for):

To make up for the cuts, Paterson proposes exempting schools from the state's expensive, union-backed Wicks Law … which drives up public facility construction costs … and new pension reforms to reduce local costs.

Wicks Law, a requirement for local governments to hire separate contractors for different aspects (plumbing, heating, electric) of the same public construction project, has been a frequent point of contention among municipalities across the state. The law was restructured some earlier this year.

What else should we expect? From the Buffalo News:

The Paterson budget raids an assortment of accounts that are not part of the state operating budget, increases taxes and fees by $4.1 billion, eliminates sales tax exemption on clothing and footwear purchases under $110, and places new sales taxes on everything from cable TV and satellite radio services to haircuts and massages.

A so-called obesity tax that would increase the levy on sugary, non-diet sodas to 18 percent per bottle is one of many "creative" taxes set up in the budget proposal. From the New York Times:

A tax on car rentals would rise to 6 percent from 5 percent. Taxes on beer and wine would more than double. Licensing fees would increase for private investigators, barbers, bail enforcement agents, home inspectors, notary publics and cosmetologists.

Taxes on gasoline, cable TV, satellite television and radio service, cigars, flavored malt beverages would also increase. And the cost of owning and operating a car would also increase significantly, with 16 fee increases for the Division of Motor Vehicles.

Mainstream media reports mostly give the impression of bracing for a blow from dad's leather belt. In the New York Times, we can read of the "austerity budget" that lays out a "painful plan"—you almost expect to hear the phrase: 'This is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you,' as the blows rain down upon us. Paterson, we're told, better get ready for a "reckoning" with the state's workforce. The Democrat & Chronicle's much more inspid coverage shies away from such colorful language, opting for the "trim" this and "limit" that style of budget speak.

Tom Precious, with the Buffalo News, siphons a bit more powder into the gun barrel in his coverage, coloring Paterson something of a pirate who is "raiding" state accounts. Precious talks of Paterson "slapping" this group with cuts and "scrubbing" rebates for that one. Sure, there's no doubt that the governor is scrambling to squeeze revenue from any source possible. But a $15 billion deficit is no chink the armor. We're hammered and dented and our shin buckles have long since rusted away. Isn't it time to strip down and revisit the forge? Or do we keep clambering on, stabbing at the windmills?

Paterson speaks of "sacrifice," mostly on the part of "working New Yorkers." No surprise, then, that we read in the Times: "Unions were bracing for a battle."

In a joint statement, George Gresham, the president of 1199 S.E.I.U. United Healthcare Workers East, and Ken Raske, president of the Greater New York Hospital Association, said “these are staggering cuts that would shatter New York’s health care infrastructure, severely threaten the ability of patients to get access to care, and cause serious harm to communities across the entire state.”

That doesn't sound good. Shattering the health care infrastructure! That's intense. That's colossal. Is it true? What about "education advocates" who are telling us that the $700 million in cuts to school aid "really" amounts to $2.5 billion. Aid was going to increase next year. So that increase should be figured into the loss... so goes the argument. Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, told Tom Precious that this is "the most dramatic cut in education in the history of New York." Is that true? I fear we will be hearing a lot more of this most and worst ever talk.

Of course, it's not all bad news.

The Paterson budget would raise $105 million by permitting the sale of wine in grocery stores. And he wants New Yorkers to gamble more: the state's Quick Draw lottery game, derided as Crack Draw by gambling opponents, would see restrictions relaxed for the kinds of places the games could be offered as well as the number of hours a day the machines could be run. And racetrack casinos could keep their doors open longer each day.

So, when you can no longer afford to buy a Coke and listen to your satellite radio while you're trout fishing—license fees are listed to go up—you can buy a box of wine or go gamble away your last few bucks at the local watering hole... you know, engage in some real civic activity... that is, If you can afford the booze.

Seriously though, this budget proposal is big news. One has to wonder, however, how far this will all go. In fact, the plethora of fee hikes, aid cuts and tax increases—not to mention the "attrition" of state workers—smacks of a clever bit of strategy. It's hard to believe that the flabbergasted media reaction was not anticipated. I'm no political schemer, but it's almost as if Paterson's crew had the idea to try every trick possible. Bombard the enemy with all that you've got, and one or two are sure to slip through the cracks, breach the walls. Cut everything that can be cut. Increase the cost of very specific products and services—say, haircuts sneakers and back massages. Vow to weed out hundreds of "needless" jobs. Oh, and the day before all this is announced, sign a law that will surely miff the state's Indian population... Do you follow? It's as if Paterson is trying to get everyone up in arms. That way, while all the bigger, louder special interest groups are making all the noise and dominating the media coverage, some of these cuts and hikes and freezes will go under the radar and actually get passed. Hmm.

Just a thought.

Melissa Marsocci

I think Governor Patterson has failed to look at some areas that have needed improvement for quite some time now. How about cutting back on our disgusting welfare system? Now, don't get me wrong, I am all for helping those that sincerely need the help, however I think there are less individuals who truly need it, and more that just need to get a job. Recently, my husband and I were shopping in WalMart, and got help up in line due to a young woman in front of us paying via WIC checks and food stamps. With her, was a 3-4 year old boy. As we waited, I looked on the conveyor to see what she had purchased. Despite the fact that her food is being paid for, she had selected a large amount of kid cuisine microwavable meals, as well as hamburger helper, and lets not forget the DVDs, and all the while texting on her $300-400 cell phone. There is definitely something wrong with this picture. Furthermore, at any time of the day, you can drive into various sections of different cities, and view the occupants just sitting out on the porch, with thousands of kids running around, and they doing absolutely nothing. As you make your way pass these people, possibly to or from work, part of your paycheck is allowing these people to continue these daily activities, as well as produce additional children in aspirations of gaining more money. Can you imagine the money being spent on this? They want to tax our health insurance, of which we may have to choose not to accept because we cannot afford it, but can pay for those same people to sit outside, and freely collect medicaid. What a sick realization. Rather than making living harder for those that are already stuggling to survive, why don't we make it harder for people to sit on their butts all day, and run up the social welfare budget. Just think how much money we could save then!

Dec 16, 2008, 3:48pm Permalink
Melissa Marsocci

I can only imagine. Especially when you here from those that do have food stamps or WIC that often times they are given way more than they need, and either give stuff away, or throw it in the garbage. There is definitely something wrong there.

Dec 16, 2008, 4:22pm Permalink
lazario Ladou

monthly drug screening for millions wouldn't be expensive
Nor would the legal troubles that would ensue
Imagine someone messes up in the lab
Not expensive at all
Great way to save money it seems to me

High cost for high cost
How about fixing issues at a very high cost that in time may lead to a lessening in the high cost of welfare

That, to me, seems like the only real "solution" to a big problem
and the only truly responsible one

What about people profiting immensely -illegally- off the "clean" people
Drug screening for all the elite?
Dirty urine, no check.

Where does this end? You don't want to find solutions to problems if you commit to exploring only one segment of the population
You want to denigrate those you have no knowledge of ..that seem to be "on the fringes" of your accepted american way of life

You throw food away? Shame on you!
Sure, I also throw away a lot of food ..your point?
I also sometimes make the worlds largest hamburger or the worlds largest lasagna but
I do try to share it with people after it's cooked
That makes it OK! I'm providing a service to the people here
You sit around all day and do nothing? Shame
I drive all day in my SUV that sucks up gas like I choke down "uppers"
But my life is giving back to society ..the society I like
You buy microwaveable meals when you could simply learn how to cook using cheaper available raw foods? SHAME
I, too, buy microwaveable meals but that's because I don't like to cook/don't care to learn how, or because I have no time to cook because I spend so much time working contributing to my society and consuming contributing to my society that I need to make the most of my time with the kids that never get to see me much thus making people like me available to work even more if I (or my boss) find it necessary to in the future

What about the healthier, more expensive organic foods?
Welfare people shouldn't be buying those or do you make an exception? Would you make such an exception as to give them more money if they proved they were buying these healthier foods?

You have an IPOD? You have an Ipod and an Iphone? WTF!!
I love these things but I contribute to my society so I am afforded the benefits
YOU have to resist the institutional workings of society
because you are simply not allowed to participate
don't want you in my society unless you contribute to it help validate it

Your kids run around?
*Just a joke there

Those making millions and billions off the chinese
We all want to be rich
Dirty water?...Here is your check!

How can this be so accepted? I say "so accepted" because I can
"only imagine"

I'm game for cleaning up
But I'm game only if we clean up everything
And I mean everything

Dec 16, 2008, 7:04pm Permalink
Gabor Deutsch

Some very good points laz.
I want to say :
Welfare is very needed and it may seem that the funding is wasted but try putting everyone in jail whom tests positive. What about drinking ? It may seem like its a waste of money providing a very modest but essential income for whom evers. It is still cheaper and more logical to deal with this on going problem in society. Some people have problems and arent on drugs or drink dont qualify for jail and cant keep a job or make ends meet or really eat MEAT. Take a good look around you. There are many people that need or qualify to get help from the "system". The majority of these people are really deserving of help. Some folks refuse the help because of stigma. I guess there will always be the ones whom abuse the system too.

Dec 16, 2008, 7:47pm Permalink
lazario Ladou

I'm not only saying that some people
clean people
would be then subject to these practices
but that some people
dirty people
may very well be on welfare because they're a product of the society and its institutions
so to punish people again for being a product
I'm not sure that's the american way
It's close to being OUR american way
Not THE american way

Doesn't seem very responsible to me at all
Sounds extremely superficial
Sounds very much like house arrest

I would say expansion of the "welfare" system would be a better idea than trying to remove all cases of fraud from it through what is likely to be a complete mess

How about real solutions? Have any of those?

Dec 16, 2008, 8:25pm Permalink
dennis wight

Laz, why would you want to expand the welfare system? This is the biggest tax burden on working people. Maybe you should pay extra into the system you love so much, you have no problem defending the people all us taxpayers support. Why should I have to struggle to support my family when others, not all, choose not to work and have everything handed to them? Are you on some sort of assistance Laz? I witness first hand the laziness and lack of desire to obtain employment to support themselves. The apartments I rent to these people, paid mostly by welfare, are always left trashed and with lots of damage. they have no self worth, no ambition, and can't even keep their apartments clean. I think having employment would add to these people feeling good about themselves. I believe some could be put to work doing minor tasks throughout many gov't agencies. Maybe then some of the fat could be trimmed from the state employees payroll.

Dec 17, 2008, 7:02am Permalink
Daniel Jones

In reality, the state cost of social welfare is only about 45 million dollars a year, it may seem like a lot of money but in reality its a drop in the bucket compared to State Aid for Schools and Health Care (5.5 Billion combined). I'm not saying that everyone on Welfare is on it for the right reasons or abusing the system, but the reality is that we had welfare reform in the 90's on a statewide and national level (under Pataki and Clinton) and it worked, it implemented welfare to work requirements, started using workfare (work for welfare) and modernized the system.

Enforcement? We have a Welfare Inspector General that investigates fraud.

Dec 17, 2008, 7:41am Permalink
Daniel Jones

The biggest tax burden in New York is Medicaid, and that's because the federal government has pushed its cost onto the state's, who push it onto the counties.

I'm sure that Jay Grasso or any other Legislator can tell you how much of a pain Medicaid is when the Legislature is putting together the County Budget.

Dec 17, 2008, 7:47am Permalink
Daniel Jones

One more thing, before anyone accuses me of a being a "socialist", I challenge any of you to go and watch a church in downtown Buffalo try to provide all of those services, they will tell you that they are completely overwhelmed. Catholic Charities can hardly make their appeal goals, how on earth does anyone think that they will be able to provide the full range of welfare services?

We've evolved after 200 years of governing, we need to make sure that welfare recipients earn their benefits but to just cast them all off as part of some massive waste to society is absurd.

Dec 17, 2008, 7:51am Permalink
Kelly Hansen


New York state is one of only <b>six states</b> which has no limits to the length of time one can receive a welfare check. One may receive financial assistance from the welfare from crib to grave.

The people on welfare are 'encouraged' to seek work but if they refuse they still receive a check minus a small sanction.

The average family on welfare receives $291/month which will rise to $387/month by January 2010 if the Paterson proposal passes. (not really all that much money)

$551 million was recently recovered by the state in medicaid funding - from over-payments, fraud, duplicate payments, etc. Medicaid is a HUGE drain on our wallets. Consider the parent who takes a child to the ER for a sore throat instead of taking him/her to a physician in the a.m. How much more are we spending than is necessary?

The missions like <a href="">St. Luke's Mission of Mercy in Buffalo</a> are seeing more and more people for their daily lunches and dinners. 200 people for lunch and 300 for dinner - every day and the numbers are rising. The St. Vincent DePaul mission in Buffalo is seeing a lot of new faces as well. They are serving 1,500 to 2,000 more meals per month than in 2007. Recently they had a former volunteer show up for a decent meal as he was out of a job and applying for jobs in his suit and tie downtown.

If the governor's proposal is approved as it stands now, more people will be needing the assistance he is offering than he can imagine. If major corporations are not allowed to rise and fall based upon the quality of their business practices, people will become more and more dependent upon the state and less motivated.

No more STAR rebates? Assessments on health insurance? Cut public school aid by 2.5 billion? A re-do on Empire zones which may discourage business growth? More sacrifice for working New Yorkers may in the end result in less working New Yorkers.

I personally think that fraudulent welfare receipts is the least of our worries. If there are 500,000 recipients in NY and the average monthly check is $291/month, we're talking about mere pennies compared to the blood-letting which is proposed to begin.

We are headed toward the drain of socialism at an ever increasing pace. Thankfully, I trust in Divine Providence. Not sure how I would cope sometimes if I did not.

<i>Pope Leo XIII:

"Socialists, therefore, by endeavoring to transfer the possessions of individuals to the community at large, strike at the interests of every wage-earner, since they would deprive him of the liberty of disposing of his wages, and thereby of all hope and possibility of increasing his resources and of bettering his condition in life."--Rerum Novarum</i>

Dec 17, 2008, 11:42am Permalink
Daniel Jones

"The missions like St. Luke's Mission of Mercy in Buffalo are seeing more and more people for their daily lunches and dinners. 200 people for lunch and 300 for dinner - every day and the numbers are rising. The St. Vincent DePaul mission in Buffalo is seeing a lot of new faces as well. They are serving 1,500 to 2,000 more meals per month than in 2007. Recently they had a former volunteer show up for a decent meal as he was out of a job and applying for jobs in his suit and tie downtown."

Exactly, they can't handle all of the aid by themselves, as far as the increase is concerned, inflation has caused a rise in prices and with many companies on the verge of bankruptcy, the welfare rolls are likely to see a major increase. I'm all for welfare reform, but take into consideration the amount that we spend on total welfare spending, 45 million dollars, a very small percentage of the annual budget.

Again, as far as Medicaid is concerned, that's because the federal government won't pay what their fare share of the bill is, so it gets pushed off and off. You can thank your medicaid fraud department for finding the waste, I never said that I was opposed to fraud prevention programs.

"No more STAR rebates? Assessments on health insurance? Cut public school aid by 2.5 billion? A re-do on Empire zones which may discourage business growth? More sacrifice for working New Yorkers may in the end result in less working New Yorkers."

Going by your standards, then all of those cuts are cutting "socialism". I don't think that we should make most of those cuts either. Again, eliminate the Thruway Authority.

Divine Providence: "But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed,
because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just." [Luke 14:13 &14.]

Dec 17, 2008, 11:57am Permalink
Kelly Hansen

Hi Dan - it was part of a news story on WGRZ:

Quote from the story: <i>In New York State, more than 500,000 people receive public assistance and according to the urban institute it's one of only six, just six places in the country that doesn't limit how long adults can do so.</i>

Other stories on the subject:

There is a limit on the federal funds, but after the term is up, the state and local governments pick up where the federal assistance dropped. (see last link)

Dec 17, 2008, 12:17pm Permalink
dennis wight

Sorry, Dan, I didn't make that clear. When I say "welfare", I was including Medicaid. Funds that come from the Department of Social Services. ie rent checks, food stamps, medicaid, heap, etc.

Dec 17, 2008, 12:57pm Permalink
Daniel Jones

Kelly-The article that you put up from WGRZ also indicates that New York gets an "A" for moving people off of its welfare rolls, that's remarkable given the tough economy and employment that has been plaguing this area before the recession went into full swing. Furthermore most counties require a welfare to work, or a work for welfare system where recipients go out and earn their benefits.

New York State does provide those services because of federal mandates, they tell the state government that they have to continue these programs even if the federal government doesn't pick up the full tab, which it needs to do. Again, I believe that we should implement strong work for welfare and welfare to work requirements. To target the entire welfare reciepient population, which was done here, as lazy is ignorant and wrong. The benefit levels aren't high enough to buy anything beyond microwave dinners (some can't afford a stove), fresh fruits and vegetables are often out of the question and with the case of WIC, the food purchases are mandated on the check....I used to cashier in a grocery store, I would know.

Dennis-Medicaid, like Welfare, is often a last resort plan, do you think that people like being on a system that is rejected by many health care providers? Their on these programs because they have no other choice in some instances, and unfortunately the federal government refuses to pay the full share of the Medicaid to state governments, who push it onto county governments. Why isn't their more outrage at millionaires who offshore and refuse to pay their taxes?

You can't pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you have no boots, the folks at private charity organizations say themselves that these programs need to remain and I'll take their word for it.

Everyone-Finally, if you know of a person who is abusing the welfare system and you don't report them then you are just as guilty as they are.

Dec 17, 2008, 1:16pm Permalink
Daniel Jones

I'll end this with an old adage "Everyone hates government, until their program is taken away" it or not, these programs are needed and the best that we can do is to make them more efficient and with strong requirements. Taking away benefits though, well, people literally do fall through the cracks, become non-consumers, clog up emergency rooms and end up is a greater expense to the taxpayers.

Dec 17, 2008, 1:21pm Permalink
Kelly Hansen

Dan - I didn't say anything about doing away with welfare or that we shouldn't lend a hand to a brother or sister who has fallen on hard times. I haven't personally said anything about the population who receives welfare and to the contrary noted that I don't think that the monthly check is much money at all. There will always be people in need of help and there will always be people who will take advantage of others.

We all need to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask what have we done to help clothe the naked, feed the hungry, care for the sick or elderly and comfort the sorrowful.

Times are only going to get tougher and this will strain marriages and families as finances become more of a worry. NY needs to have some belt tightening and some of the proposals on behalf of the governor are warranted in my view; others are not.

The middle-class will only be hurt by much of what is proposed and any incentive for the lower class to better themselves will be wiped away.

If anyone wants to help the local missions, click on the links below and see what their current needs are. Get some friends and family together and instead of receiving presents this Christmas, suggest they bring something to contribute to your collection of needed items for a mission.……

Peace be with us all during this Advent and Christmas season.

Dec 17, 2008, 2:43pm Permalink
dennis wight

Sorry Dan and Kelly, I guess I was venting a bit and generalizing...You're right, some people truly need what's available and more....thanks for the links

Dec 17, 2008, 7:44pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Of course, one reason people don't donate money and time to charities as much these days is because the modern welfare state has created an expectation that it's the government's job to handle such things.

Dec 17, 2008, 9:31pm Permalink

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