Governor David Paterson answering reporters' questions at a less bleak time (via Flickr)

That idea that NYSUT, the state teachers union, has been pushing, about avoiding mid-year cuts to schools — it’s starting to look about as likely as Joel Klein’s mayoral campaign.

Governor Paterson made a speech this morning offering even more dire projections on the state’s budget gap for the next four years. Earlier this month the budget gap was pegged at $1.2 billion; now it’s at $1.5 billion, according to the Daily News. The cumulative, four-year budget deficit is a historic $47 billion. According to Liz Benjamin at the Daily News, the cuts Paterson will have to make in the next year will represent almost 25 percent of the state’s general fund.

The Times also has an early story up, which includes this quote from the governor:

“Don’t get me wrong, there will be hard and painful cuts,” he said in the address. “There will be no segment of this budget that will not be cut.”

When I spoke to NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi last week, he told me that Paterson was the single elected official who had not yet promised not to cut schools’ budgets mid-year. Maybe Paterson knew something the other Albany guys didn’t.

Paterson used the word “dire,” and it does look that way, but Liz Benjamin offers some recent history that puts the cumulative four-year deficit figure, $47 billion, into perspective:

That is the largest cumulative deficit in state history.

According to the state Budget Division, while the current deficits are the largest in absolute dollars in history, as a percentage of the general fund budget, they are similar to those faced in 2003-04.

In that year, the state closed an $11.2 billion budget gap, which represented 28.4 percent of the then $39.5 billion general fund.