WXXI Local Stories
12:38 am
Mon January 21, 2008

Spitzer Says Budget Will Contain "Hard Choices"

Albany, New York – Governor Eliot Spitzer says his budget, due Tuesday, will make cuts to the growth of education and health care spending. The governor, speaking after a celebration in Albany in honor of Martin Luther King, says that given the state's $4.4 billion dollar deficit, he's had to make some tough choices.

Governor Spitzer's budget will not raise education spending as much as he had promised last year, when he settled a decades long court case and pumped billions of extra dollars into the state's schools. But the governor says his spending plan will still include a substantial increase, despite fiscal hard times.

"This is a big, big deficit that has to be overcome and so we are making the hard choices," said Spitzer.

Nevertheless, the governor says he'll propose "the single largest education budget increase in the history of New York".

Billy Easton, with the Alliance for Quality Education, one of the groups that supported the lawsuit to raise school funding, says he believes Spitzer should have stuck to the amount that he and the legislature agreed to last year.

"We're not asking for anything more than was committed to last year, and we're not expecting anything less," said Easton.

Easton said he believes the governor is "personally very committed" to education, but says it's now up to the legislature to restore the money.

Past governors have intentionally low-balled their estimates for education spending, so that the legislature, which traditionally likes to spend more money than governors, can have something to add. The governor, while not admitting that he's doing that, says he realizes that such a "dynamic" exists.

Governor Spitzer also acknowledged that he will be proposing some cuts to the Medicaid budget. He wants to shift some money from inpatient hospital care to outpatient care. He also wants to reduce the percentage by which Medicaid reimbursements will rise, known as the trend factor. The governor, staying with the health care theme, described his budget this way:

"It's kind of like getting flu shot," he aid. "You know there's a momentary sting, but it's good for you in the long run."

Tomorrow's budget presentation might indeed contain bad news- but it's been preceded by two weeks of good news. Governor Spitzer has given two major speeches in which he's announced help for higher education and the Upstate economy.

A new poll out Monday shows that the public is reacting favorably, and Spitzer's meteoric drop in the polls has leveled off. The Siena College survey finds the governor's favorability rating is up 8 points from December, to 44%. The poll found voters like the Governor's proposal for a commission to study a property tax cap. They support his planned expansion of health care to all of the state's children, and selling the state lottery to pay for an endowment fund for public colleges.

Spitzer, during his speech at the King Day celebration, used a sports metaphor that could have applied to his own rocky times in his first year as governor. He talked of the New York Giant's unrelenting effort in Sunday night's play off game against the Green Bay Packers. The governor says the Giant's refusal to give up could be compared to Dr. King's steadfastness, but Spitzer could've been talking about himself.

"A lot of us groaned and complained the first time that field goal didn't quite succeed," he said. "The third time, at 47 yards, we were shaking our heads. But it worked."

Spitzer says a message can be taken from the team's efforts. "The metaphor is you don't get dissuaded by momentarily not succeeding," he said.

The governor says he's not going to raise taxes in his spending plan, which may be good news to many New Yorker's, but he indicated that he will reduce the annual tax rebate checks mailed out under the STAR property tax reduction plan. He said he'll provide all of the details on his spending plan on Tuesday.