Gov. David A. Paterson addressed the joint session of the Legislature by expressing his deep, abiding respect for the institution. The governor reminded the Assembly and Senate that he was once a legislator who worked to improve health care and education, and that his views had not changed but the economic view had. “Frankly, we are running out of money,” said Paterson.
Paterson then proposed a two year budget deficit reduction plan that would immediately cut $3.2 billion from the current year budget, and $5 billion over all. He warned that action must be taken quickly and cited examples such as Massachusetts, which asked for a federal loan, and Arizona, which mortgaged its capitol. “We must act now, not tomorrow, not next week, not next year,” said Paterson.
The governor’s plan involves cutting 10 percent from state agencies, which will save $500 million. Other cuts come in the form of a $686 million cut from education and $471 million from health care. Paterson reiterated the hardship this would cause the state and asked for the legislature’s support, saying “I will mortgage my political career on this plan, but I will not mortgage the fate of the state of New York.”
Paterson’s speech to the joint session also addressed the same-sex marriage bill in the Senate. He said, “I am asking members of the New York state Senate to take up and pass the marriage equity legislation this week.” The governor said if gay and lesbian couples wanted to marry, they should be allowed to do so and called them not just members of our families but members of the family of New York
Directly following the joint session Paterson, lawmakers went into conference. Paterson emerged about an hour after with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Paterson said the budget cuts could be flexible and that both conferences would work through the night to come to a decision. When asked about the chances that the budget would be passed the governor replied, “You’ve come to the wrong building. I’m not a seer, I’m not a shaman.”