The extraordinary circumstances of David Paterson’s rise to office go far beyond Eliot Spitzer, whose alleged ties to high-priced prostitutes forced him to resign last week. The 55th governor has his work cut out for him during difficult times in the state. NY1 Albany reporter Josh Robin filed the following report.
Expect smiles and applause Monday during David Paterson’s swearing in ceremony, but the new governor may be excused for soon feeling upset.
There are growing deficits, failing schools, and a budget to be worked out — something he’s talked about since getting word he would be the new governor.
“We cannot afford to waste another second,” said Paterson, speaking to the media the day after Eliot Spitzer announced he was resigning as governor. “We have a budget that’s due and a deadline to meet.”
To Albany observers, the strange circumstances of Paterson’s rise will bring good will — to a point.
“I think Mr. Paterson will have a honeymoon for at least a couple of months,” said Barbara Bartoletti of the League of Women Voters.
In the meantime though, he has to sit down with Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Republican State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno — a pair of Albany players who don’t see eye to eye on how to bridge a more than $4 billion deficit.
Silver proposes hiking taxes on millionaires. Bruno says no. So did Spitzer, but Paterson is more liberal than his running mate. He’s hinted he’s open to the tax, alarming some.
“I think that if the new governor adopts and embraces this income tax increase proposed by the Assembly, it’s going to be a recipe for a prolonged budget stalemate because the Senate cannot do it,” said E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center. “If he does not, I think they will cobble together a budget rather quickly, although they are hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars apart.”
To ready the field, Paterson’s been charming his new partners — and getting some kindness in return.
“Senator Bruno bought lunch for me,” joked Paterson on Friday.
There may be a lot of working lunches. Upstate has been bleeding jobs and covets downstate resources — a potential trip-up.
“Upstate definitely has its problems economically and Mr. Paterson will have to show that even though he is a downstate governor, legislator, he must show he can govern and help upstate as well,” said Bartoletti.
But downstate has pressing needs, like funding schools and paying for downtown redevelopment.
A plan to toll Manhattan streets also has a March 31st deadline. And a spending proposal to restore and expand city mass transit is short more than $13 billion.
This laundry list of tasks is making some wonder how long Paterson will stay smiling.
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