State budget cuts step over dollars to save dimes

With a budget deficit anticipated to reach $47 billion over the next four years, the state legislature and Paterson administration are pursuing ways to avoid New York finding itself in the same mess that California is in. Unfortunately, it seems that their solutions often side-step practicality without truly trimming much off the deficit. Case in point is the various attempts to save money by slashing popular programs under the public outdoors umbrella. These aren’t the big dollar “pork” budget items, but rather those that tend to impact the general public, especially those of us who enjoy outdoor activities.

This kicked off last year when the state’s last remaining pheasant rearing facility was set to be put on the chopping block to “save” the $750K annual cost of running the facility. However, it was later proven that the facility was actually making a profit of $300K annually and the decision was reversed, but only after heavy lobbying by outdoor groups and a report of the fiscal facts. This may have been a hint of why New York finds itself in financial trouble. What accounting genius concluded that the facility wasn’t actually generating a profit? All they did was look at the program’s budgeted cost and instead of saving $750 it actually would’ve added $300K to the overall state budget red column.

Next on the line cuts were several state campground facilities. DEC is responsible for managing 52 campgrounds and 7-day-use areas in New York's Adirondack Park and Catskill Park. But perhaps having learned from the pheasant program fiasco, these are not slated to be closed but rather their operating seasons cut back. The majority are in the sparsely populated Adirondacks. Also considered for closure are several of the state’s 350 boating access sites.

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