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Paterson Warns of Greater Shortfall, Signs Unemployment Benefits Extension

Governor David Patterson
Courtesy of www.ny.gov.
Governor David Patterson

By Mark Scott

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-838703.mp3

Albany, NY – Click the audio player above to hear Mark Scott's story now or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod.

While next year's state budget already has a $2.5 billion shortfall, Governor David Paterson says he's gearing up for a deficit more than double that. During an Albany news conference Wednesday, the Governor said he expects tax revenues to continue falling.

But legislative leaders who joined Paterson were more optimistic. State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith said he expects the economy to begin recovering enough later this fiscal year to keep the budget in balance.

All the budget talk followed an announcement of an extension of unemployment benefits for workers who were on the verge of losing them. Some 56,000 New Yorkers who thought they'd gotten their final unemployment checks this week have gotten a 13-week reprieve.

But some union leaders are upset. They say the state should also have increased the the amount of unemployment benefits as well as extending them.

Paterson responded the state is doing what it can. He said negotiations were taking place right up to the last moment to index benefits so they would automatically keep pace with the cost of living. But when those talks failed to resolve the indexing issue, state leaders thought it was more important to extend the existing benefits for unemployed workers rather than scrapping the bill in its entirety.