Will Paterson’s Budget Strategy Help or Hurt Him?

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As he pointed out in Washington last week, Governor Paterson is facing a $47 billion budget gap over the next three years. But instead of offering his own plan to solve it, he’s asked that his fellow lawmakers in Albany come up with their own solutions first — and by November 7. To some, it’s clever negotiating. “I like this move,” says Elizabeth Lynam, senior research associate at the watchdog Citizens Budget Commission. “He’s trying to change the dynamic that they [legislators] can just sit on the sidelines and shoot down all his ideas.” But by veiling his own plans and playing chicken with the Albany legislature, Paterson’s approach could backfire. “It hurts him tremendously,” says one Democratic operative. “It’s the non-approach: a complete abdication of executive responsibility and a cynical, just-politic-driven attempt to avoid blame for cuts and taxes. He wants to look like his hand is forced and seize the rhetorical high ground. It’s not going to happen. His colleagues aren’t buying it. You have to lead from the front.”