In an unusual move, Gov. David Patterson took to the airwaves, asking stations to carry his 5 minute speach on the State’s economy. Not sure how many stations actually did, my guess is most, as they all have 5pm newscasts now, but I watched it on Capital News 9 here in the Albany area.
It was a short, and fearful speach. He was not off base in his assessment though. Due to declines on Wall Street, and the banking crisis, the State of NY is facing a $5billion shortfall in the budget. It’s so bad, that the Governor has even contemplated asking the Federal government to help bail the State out. It has not hit that point just yet.
Instead, Patterson is looking to make some moves here in NY at first. State agencies will be facing budget cut backs. While this may not mean immediate layoffs, it will mean hiring freezes, except for critical positions, and reduction through attrition (retirements, resignations). It also means that the Governor will be recalling the Legislature into session on August 19th for a special session to deal with the budget crisis. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos had already planned on recalling the Senate for a session to deal with the Property Tax Cap issue, so it will be up to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to get his ducks in a row and show up.
A lot of these proposals will depend on how they are implemented. Unfortunately, I think that most cuts will happen in the wrong places for the wrong reasons. The State unions are extremely powerful, and are very protective of certain positions and agencies. Some agencies are already at effectively skeleton crew levels, and others which should be prioritized, will suffer cuts that will in the end hurt the State more than it will help. This is not say that cuts can’t, or shouldnt be made. But they have to be properly applied.
What happens in August, with the recalled Legislature, should be interesting at the least. Somehow, I have the nagging suspicion that the Assembly will scuttle any meaningful reforms, or budgetary adjustments. Any initiative will be watered down to the point of being nothing more than a dog and pony show. But we shall see.