Gov. Paterson warns of looming deficit

BOLTON LANDING In a rare appearance in Warren County, Gov. Paterson said a unified effort among state legislators would be vital in tackling the states problems during an era of crushing state budget deficits. Legislative unity and progress was the theme of the lengthy speech Paterson delivered Tuesday night to television and radio executives gathered for the annual conference of the New York State Broadcasters Association. Held at the Sagamore Resort, the event coincided with a milestone in Patersons career as governor his first 100 days in office. In an interview after his speech, Paterson expressed optimism about working with new state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos of Nassau County, who was elected just hours earlier after six-term Majority Leader Joseph Bruno surprised his peers with an announcement he was retiring. Paterson praised the character and long record of service of Bruno, who was born in Glens Falls. Joe Bruno is a friend, a colleague and a man of great character, Paterson said. Hes dynamic, articulate, perceptive, and courageous. Paterson said the two worked together towards common goals despite differences in party affiliation, and that hed be missing Bruno. Joe and I disagreed on a lot of issues, but we respected each others positions as we worked to make the state a better place, he said. Joe and I tried to show our colleagues in Albany that a Republican and Democrat can work together to effect change. Paterson touted legislative progress achieved this last several weeks, noting that 21 substantive bills were passed, a record unsurpassed for the last 40 years, he said. He cited a bill that extended benefits for those who responded to Ground Zero immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attack, another bill that substantially increases the money companies pay towards cleaning up sites theyve polluted, and a law that will ban forced overtime for nurses, who are now sometimes required to work three shifts in a row, he said. Other bills he touted were one that criminalizes predatory mortgage lending practices, and another that bans individuals named on the state sexual predators list from employment as teachers. In an interview after the speech, Paterson was asked what the state could do to help Adirondack-area residents who are facing crushing fuel costs as they commute to work. Paterson responded that while establishing viable public transportation service in the North Country might be a good long-term goal, people were seeking short-term relief. Oil companies should reduce their fuel prices, he said, adding that a state fuel tax reductions or holidays would be unwise, since they would add $600 million to the states deficit. Id like to see oil company executives come to Albany stand with me on the Capitol steps and promise to lower the prices, he said. Paterson said that as the state faces a projected $21.5 billion deficit over the next three years, legislators need to prompt the private sector to focus on new technology and alternative fuel sources to create jobs and restore a vibrant economy now devastated by manufacturing losses. He called for the development of wind, solar, hydropower, and biofuel energy sources. These alternative energy sources are the wave of the future we need to be on the cutting edge of bringing back jobs, and on the cutting edge of medical and scientific research, he said. We need to encourage a pro-active economy that will create wealth and lower debt. Our state can be a national leader in this. During his first 100 days in office, hes experienced a bipartisan cooperation thats led to formidable achievement, he said. We are trying to change the culture of Albany, he said. We are trying to restore a tone of governance that includes a respect for ideological differences. Paterson noted that had visited Lake George several years ago and taken a tour boat ride, about a week before the deadly Ethan Allen tour boat incident. He said he enjoyed the beauty of the area, despite the later tragic event. Lake George, he told the broadcasters, should be re-named Lake Gorgeous George. His wit was well-represented through his speech, including when he joked about the implications of inheriting an imploding economy and looming deficit. Why does it have to be me when I become governor? he quipped. I hope its not a black thing. Reacting to the joke, two of his black aides standing nearby cringed but laughed. He also joked about the Capitols reputation as a political quagmire. Theres no other place like Planet Albany, he said. Theres no oxygen, no gravity, and they dont know the rest of the State exists. Paterson, who is legally blind, also joked about Brunos prowess at office athletics. The governor laughed as he said he could toss empty water bottles into waste baskets more accurately than Bruno, and he expected to chide the elder statesman about it. Some of us win, and some of us lose, he said.

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