Message Control: Pre-Budget Talks, Governor Casts Himself as No-Dealer

Governor Paterson is going into meetings with the Legislature, and from reports like this one from AP, he and his people are spreading a hard line: the Governor expects "no deals" on the $600 million in cuts he wants made to the state budget.

This is an odd way to put it, considering how compliant the lawmakers have been so far. Right after Spitzer resigned, Paterson got them to make cuts to the original budget of about $700 million (or $1.1 billion, or $2 billion, depending on whom you ask).

Paterson does show a bit of carrot -- "The Legislature has shown a metamorphosis," he tells AP. But he doesn't spare the stick either: "If the Legislature doesn't" accede to the cuts, "and deficits mount for the rest of the year, [Paterson] said lawmakers will be haunted by his warnings and the fact that they didn't act."

The way the Governor tells it, special interests "have overplayed their hand" with big ad spends, and his "rising popularity.... has helped give him the authority to force fiscal restraint on Albany," reports AP.

Furthermore, the Governor says in Politics on the Hudson, it's only fair: he made $630 million in agency cuts at his own discretion, now it's their turn. "I would think that perhaps the Legislature can find $600 million of their own," he says.

To increase the sense of urgency, Paterson tells Reuters that "the state may be facing its worst hardships since the Great Depression."

Among his proposed fiscal remedies is a property tax cap, defended by Paterson and Tom Suozzi in a Syracuse Post-Standard editorial today, which declares that "the property tax crisis... is driving New York state residents out of their homes and out of our state." The Governor and the Nassau County Executive add that "enacting the cap will not lessen our state's commitment to quality education," and they may be technically correct: faced with a choice between lower taxes and better schools, New Yorkers may agree to lessen their commitment to quality education themselves, as many communities in Massachusetts have done under similar circumstances. That's devolution of power for you!

At the New York Daily News, Elizabeth Benjamin notices advocates for independent living centers and home care "opposing Gov. David Paterson's proposed cuts with bedsheet banners held up by crutches. Talk about "overplaying their hand"! These people clearly need better image consultants.

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