Gov. David Paterson unveiled a $134 billion proposed budget today that would impose new taxes on sugary drinks and cigarettes and cut school aid and health care spending by $1.1 billion and $1 billion, respectively. "The mistakes of the past — squandering surpluses, papering over deficits, relying on irresponsible fiscal gimmicks to finance unsustainable spending increases — have led us to a financial breaking point," Paterson said. "There are no more easy answers."
The cuts to education and health care spending will likely be met with heated opposition in the Legislature, "in part because health cuts will harm community hospital care and school aid cuts are likely to prompt school boards to raise local property taxes and cut programs," the Advance reports. To bring in new revenue, Paterson wants to impose a $1 tax increase on packs of cigarettes, bringing the total state tax to $3.75 per pack — the highest cigarette tax in the nation, according to 1010WINS. He also plans to tax soft drinks, legalize ultimate fighting, allow the sale of wine in liquor stores, reduce restrictions on Quick Draw lottery games, lengthen the hours that video slot machine parlors can stay open, and extend the income tax benefits of married couples to same-sex couples wedded in states where gay marriage is legal.
Among other proposed cuts, the Governor plans to nix $95 million from four year colleges operated by the State University of New York and $47.7 million from those run by City University of New York. He calls for reducing a long-planned increase in the basic welfare grant from 10 percent to 5 percent, closing several prisons, reducing the state workforce by 675 jobs, cutting $1 billion from state agencies, and giving less money to municipalities including New York City — which stands to lose $301.7 million in local municipal assistance money, according to the Daily News. The Legislature is expected to agree on a final budget before the new fiscal year begins on April 1.