Details on next year’s state budget may still be far from complete, but legislative leaders and Gov. David Paterson were confident enough Thursday night to announce that consensus on a framework had been reached. That’s good news, of course, and also pretty impressive since the framework apparently doesn’t include $1.5 billion from a tax on incomes over $1 million that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had been pushing, or the $500 million from a doubling of the state’s $1.50 per-pack tax on cigarettes that been supported in a variety of places.
Neither of these revenue sources were in Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s original budget proposal, but given the continued deterioration of the national economy — and state finances — and the unpopularity of some of the fee hikes in Spitzer’s budget, it seemed that one or both stood a decent chance of becoming part of a budget deal. And both made a lot of sense.
But Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno adamantly opposed the income tax hike, even though it would have affected less than two-tenths of 1 percent of all state residents. So Silver caved there, and Paterson withdrew $500 million of the proposed $800 million in additional cuts he’d said were necessary just the day before when he dropped in at Schenectady City Hall for a photo op with Mayor Brian Stratton. Thus it will interesting to see just what the final budget agreement will look like — what will get cut and where the money to pay for what doesn’t will come from.
As for Stratton’s strategy of publicly embracing Paterson’s plan to make additional cuts, including $220,000 earmarked for the city through the Aid and Incentives to Municipalities program, it seemed reasonable enough at the time — a good way to ingratiate himself with the new governor. But now that Paterson has agreed to restore so many of those cuts, we hope he doesn’t forget that Schenectady could really use the money.