State Assembly Committee to meet on DEC cuts

ALBANY - A New York State Assembly committee will convene next week to weigh the impacts of Gov. David Paterson's proposed staffing cuts at the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

In October, Paterson said he would seek to layoff nearly 2,000 state workers before year's end in order to cut into a budget deficit estimated at nearly $10 billion.

The lame duck Democratic governor, who will be replaced by Andrew Cuomo in January, pledged that his cuts would be dispersed evenly among all state agencies.

But an internal DEC memo, leaked to the press shortly before Grannis was fired, showed that Paterson intends to cut about 200 jobs from DEC - representing approximately 10 percent of statewide setbacks.

Although the memo's author was never revealed, Grannis took the blame and was fired by one of Paterson's top aides.

Now, lawmakers and environmentalists are scrambling to fight back, noting that Paterson's proposed cuts could devastate an agency already coping with significant budget reductions.

Teresa Sayward is the ranking Republican on the Assembly's Environmental Conservation Committee. She said next week's hearing will explore the current economic state of the DEC and look ahead to next year.

Sayward said Paterson will get a first-hand look at how his proposed cuts are going to affect the agency.

"I think it's going to be pretty focused on the impacts of the 2010-2011 state budgets, in terms of staffing levels and programs," she said. "The whole purpose is to review the implementation of the state budget and how that's going to affect programs. How are we going to take care of the land with all of these staffing cuts? I'm sure the staff will be present to give their presentations on how they think they can deal with everything they have to deal with in terms of everything that's been proposed."

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