ALBANY - Gov. David Paterson on Tuesday asked the Legislature to provide him emergency power to close a $3.2 billion deficit in the face of inaction by the lawmakers.
''I say this to the legislators: This budget must be balanced. Please note the fate of so many other states that did not take this action,'' Paterson said in an Internet address. ''Cut this deficit with me or I'll do it myself. The people of New York have waited too long.''
It was unclear whether the special power would be granted by lawmakers who have balked at Paterson's proposed cuts. There was no immediate comment from the Senate and Assembly majorities. Lawmakers have opposed cuts to school aid and health care that Paterson said are unavoidable, but granting the power to the governor could force him alone to make politically dicey cuts to school aid and health care.
Gov. David Paterson
(Enterprise file photo)
''I am aware many of the legislators are afraid,'' Paterson said.
''If the Legislature is unwilling to make the necessary cuts, I will. If the Legislature is unwilling to do what needs to be done, I will,'' Paterson said.
Paterson said the power is need to keep the state ''afloat.''
State Sen. Ruben Diaz, a Bronx Democrat, said he won't vote for Paterson's cuts or his proposed bill, saying he's angry at Paterson's combative tone.
''I am not voting for it no matter how much he yells,'' Diaz said. ''He knows that we are not going to support his cuts. So he is trying to act like a macho man.''
Sen. Kevin Parker, a Brooklyn Democrat, said he thinks the move is just part of negotiations.
''We're having conversations,'' he said, adding that he ''absolutely'' believes a legislative agreement with the governor is still possible.
Assembly Majority Leader Ronald Canestrari said Paterson's request to act alone to amend the budget may be unconstitutional. The Democratic majority is examining that now. But Canestrari though Paterson's Internet address will aid negotiations with the Legislature.
''I think he was excellent,'' said Canestrari, an Albany County Democrat. ''I think it's helpful, it's leadership, it's movement.''
The deficit is the result of continuing declining tax revenues in the face of unsustainable spending from the budget adopted in April. That deficit included more than $4 billion in tax increases and increased spending by about 10 percent, mostly using temporary federal stimulus funds.
Late Monday, legislative leaders blamed the governor for insisting on cuts to school aid and health care, two of the strongest special interests in Albany.