Governor David Paterson addressed an overflow crowd at Morrisville State College last week as part of an effort to explain to New Yorkers his plan to balance the state budget this year. This was the first time Paterson addressed questions from a student audience.
"In the midst of these turbulent times, it is a time to be aware, to be engaged and to be involved," Paterson said.
He also noted that closing the current deficit will take a lot of shared sacrifice and pain. The current problem was the result of overspending in during better economic times during the 90s but revenues that supported that spending have run out.
Paterson said that cuts to SUNY schools are the worst place to cut ,since the state will be looking to educated young people to contribute to future economic growth.
Freshman Daniel Nunez, an automotive technology major, was the first to ask a question of the governor. Why are EOP programs being cut, he asked, when that is the only way some students will be able to attend college?
Paterson explained that the cuts were across the board.
"We are the victims of overspending," he said, and elected officials at all levels have been unrealistically believing that revenues will not run out. "Hear me on this," he said emphatically: "This country is in a serious situation."
Paterson admitted that cutting benefits to students would put more of a burden on those educated young people who might one day be looked to for economic solutions, but that the cuts are the same across the board. He encouraged students to come to Albany during the budget process and lobby their elected officials to restore the cuts for SUNY students.
Elizabeth Dana, a MSC staff member, asked the governor if there was any plan to give preference to New York state graduates when hiring. The governor agreed that keeping educated college graduates in the state is one important way to meet the current crisis, but that preferential treatment might be considered discriminatory.