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Ravitch Budget Plan Calls For Control Board, Borrowing Billions

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ALBANY, N.Y. (Associated Press) -- Closed-door budget talks at the Capitol on Tuesday included discussion of a spending cap, more borrowing and proposed creation of an independent control board that could give one official broad power to balance the budget.

Paterson said the "control board" proposed by Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch would be an independent panel that would decide whether a budget deal struck by the Legislature and governor is balanced under uniform accounting rules. If not, the governor -- or potentially another official such as the comptroller -- would gain extraordinary powers to make final spending cuts and other decisions.

Paterson said the idea, even if accepted, wouldn't likely be used this budget session.

But he said it could be critical in ending Albany's notorious overspending. He said recent spending has risen 8 percent annually while revenues increased just 3 percent a year, placing New Yorkers among the highest taxed Americans.

"I think what we are moving toward in this state is a shift in which there will be a final decider," Paterson said. "I think this whole idea that you can govern by committee is just not working where fiscal management is concerned."

"It's an interesting concept that's worthy of consideration," said Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. "He's worked hard to come up with a plan that works."

Paterson also is pushing for a spending cap that had previously been rejected by the Legislature. The closed-door talks also include proposals for borrowing.

"Our problem is spending," Paterson said Tuesday. He noted the deficit is more than $9 billion in the budget due April 1. "Borrowing is what got everyone into trouble; ... no one is opposed to borrowing until the day of reckoning comes and the day of reckoning has come to New York."

The borrowing proposal comes as state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli proposes similar long-term reforms to Albany's long-criticized budget process. He said Albany should simply start matching spending with revenues.

"Now we have spending commitments we can't meet and a funding stream that is weaker and more unpredictable than it's been," DiNapoli said Tuesday in an interview. He said the Legislature and governor should no longer continue a practice of making record increases in spending, such as school aid, that can no longer be sustained by revenues.

"We have to approach this as a restructured economy," DiNapoli said.

Senate Conference Leader John Sampson, a Brooklyn Democrat, said he is hesitant to borrow more. He said Paterson met with the Democratic majority Tuesday night and that the conference is considering Ravitch's multiyear fiscal plan that would include borrowing.

"Everything is on the table," Sampson said.

The statements sought to show the governor and legislative leaders engaged in budget negotiations despite scandals that threaten Paterson's job. The scandals already have forced three staffers to resign.

Paterson is being investigated by the attorney general for his role in contact with a woman who had accused one of his top aides of domestic violence. The woman later dropped the charge. Paterson also is accused of violating a state gift ban in obtaining free World Series tickets, then lying about it.

Paterson said Tuesday that legislative leaders are dealing with him on the budget and cooperating, despite the scandals.

In the current $130 billion budget, just under $6 billion is spent on debt payments, with far more kept "off the books" that was borrowed by public authorities that run transportation services, utilities and other services.

AP Writer Valerie Bauman contributed to this report from Albany.