NY's Current Fiscal Mess Is Worse Than the Seventies

And that's coming from Ritchard Ravitch, the man who rescued New York City from bankruptcy in the 1970s.

By Gabe Pressman
|  Thursday, Apr 29, 2010  |  Updated 5:17 PM EDT
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NY's Current Fiscal Mess Is Worse Than the Seventies

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1977, American actor John Travolta sits on a bench inside a subway car painted with graffiti in a still from director John Badham's film 'Saturday Night Fever'. (Photo by Paramount Pictures/Getty Images)

Lt. Governor Richard Ravitch is deeply frustrated. And that is sad for him, sad for the state -- and sad for all of us.

“The situation is so serious that, unless we take some corrective actions, the state is going to run out of cash by early June,” Ravitch told me.

The lieutenant governor was one of the architects of the financial plan that helped save the city from bankruptcy in the mid-1970s. Under Governor Hugh Carey’s leadership, a group of people, including banker Felix Rohatyn and union leader Victor Gotbaum, devised a scheme to keep New York City running -- and we came out of the mess ultimately with flying colors.

 “We can’t continue to look at just the short term," Ravitch said. "We need a balanced budget, with strict accounting principles. This crisis is worse than the 1975 crisis. The problem is people don’t recognize it.”

Sadly, few are listening to Ravitch or Governor Paterson at the moment. The Governor proposed that the legislators work five days a week in Albany instead of the usual three until a budget is adopted. He has suggested that state employees work only four days a week, to save money.

The Legislature didn’t listen. And state employees and their unions were hardly overjoyed by the governor’s desperate proposal. The state budget was supposed to be adopted by April 1st

It wasn’t -- and the Legislature has been reduced to passing temporary appropriation bills to try to keep the government agencies running.

With a budget deficit of nearly $10 billion staring us in the face, the situation is not expected to get better. “In the next few years,” Ravitch warns. “it will get even worse.”

It’s a grim time -- and the absence of leadership to get us out of this financial quicksand is frightening. As Rohatyn told the New York Times recently: “Ravitch is the only one up there who makes sense.”

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