Governor Paterson's Budget Ultimatum

Governor Paterson gave the legislature a choice last night: Pass the entire year's health care budget -- including $775 million in painful cuts -- or shut down the entire state government.

What would that mean? Crucial workers like state police and prison guards would not receive a paycheck after this week. Would they come to work? Nobody knows.

State Senate sources had told NBCNewYork the bill would likely pass.

Protesters say the health cuts would close trauma centers reduce care for the indigent and devastate already struggling nursing homes.

Why such difficult choices? Because the budget is two months late and approaching $10 billion out of balance. And the governor is trying to force the legislature to take action.

So Paterson’s new strategy is to put these seriously unpopular cuts into the weekly emergency budget extender bills that the state has been passing once a week for ten weeks since they missed the budget deadline.

These extender bills are what has kept he state government running without a budget.

So now the choice for lawmakers is pass those cuts or shut down government. Paterson administration sources say they are cautiously optimistic that the budget extender will pass and avoid a statewide crisis.

In theory, the governor could pull this same trick once a week until the whole budget gets done, piecemeal.

He could do health care this week, education cuts next week, another subject the following week. And our sources are hinting that next week in addition to education cuts Paterson might include the soda tax -- which is very unpopular with the legislature.

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