Between The Third Rail And A Hard Place

So what do we do now? Governor Patterson is talking about a cumulative budget shortfall of $47 billion over the next four years and in a press release yesterday announced:

We need real leadership. We’re going to have to put politics aside…Don’t get me wrong. There will be hard and painful cuts. There is no segment of this budget that will not be cut.

Where does this budget crisis leave cities such as Syracuse (as well as their dependent school district?) Both the city and the schools have a structural deficit that can only be balanced with large infusions of cash from Albany. The city has salary, pension, worker’s comp and other obligations that it cannot meet with its property tax levies and share of local sales tax. Over 70% of the city’s budget is taken up by just three departments: police, fire and DPW–you could eliminate everything else and still not be remotely close to balance. And the school district’s budget is twice that figure.

How many programs are we willing to cut and how many services will we agree to forego? And what if even that isn’t enough? Will someone have the political guts to mention an increase in state income taxes? It doesn’t seem likely since Albany is releasing press notices about catastrophic budget emergencies and calling for deep budget cuts, yet it still sent me and millions of homeowners across the state a STAR rebate check for over $200–making sure it got out before election day.

Batten down the hatches, it’s gonna be a nightmare.

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