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April 7, 2009
by Rick Bell FAIA Executive Director AIA New York

Rick Bell, FAIA, with Governor Patterson.

Marissa Shorenstein

On Thursday, 04.02.09, New York State Governor David A. Patterson came to a breakfast meeting of the Association for a Better New York to discuss his efforts to close the largest budget gap in state history and stabilize New York’s long-term finances. Governor Paterson started his remarks by noting that a large number of the projects in the Federal Stimulus Package are located in NYC. The funding coming with these projects may camouflage the fact that the state’s budget, and the city’s budget as well, have been overwhelmed by what Governor Paterson called “the tsunami of revenue downturn.” He spoke of the compromises that had to be made by all parties in Albany and called for ongoing fiscal restraint, noting that the state’s budget “has more cuts and more recurring cuts than would have occurred if I jumped up and down and called the Legislators names.”

His budgetary outline was presented succinctly: “This is where we are now in the Empire State,” he said. “We are making decisions that are unpopular, and no one knows that better than me — the solace is that these decisions are necessary.” In an even tone he continued: “This budget is about broad sweeping reforms and change; it is the road to economic recovery.” Tonal change crept in with rhetorical challenge: “To those who are criticizing it, I say you do not understand the dire circumstances of this economy, and you do not understand the need for shared sacrifice. I am the Governor of this state and I do.”

The remarks spoke to specific numbers, including the $6 billion expected from the Stimulus Package and the $4.7 billion anticipated from the personal income tax, which Gov. Patterson had previously opposed. He suggested that there was a great need to eliminate waste and redundancy in state agencies by concentrating government operations, and he cited health care and prison reforms as areas currently receiving critical attention. The Rockefeller-era drug laws, in particular, were cited as causing expensive and unnecessary mandatory incarceration for first-time offenders who, he said, need treatment more than prison.

In addressing deficits, which he said were occurring in 43 of the 50 states, and totaling almost $190 billion, Gov. Patterson said that “we shouldn’t be myopic — this problem is occurring in other states. We’ve been an equal opportunity offender in this budget process.” He concluded by saying that the proposed MTA transit fare increases are “a total encumbrance” that should not proceed.

Challenged about keeping the “Governor” in “Governors Island” he spoke of ongoing negotiations with the city, promising that “there was something being worked out” that would help fund the Governors Island Preservation & Education Corporation and its programs providing public access. Revenue tsunami or no, Governors Island needs to be kept afloat.

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