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Paterson blasts political status quo in annual speech

ALBANY - Gov. David Paterson attacked runaway spending, monied lobbyists and political corruption in his State of the State address Jan. 6, and the state legislators in the audience gave his speech perhaps the most unenthusiastic reception in recent history.

With the backdrop of an election year, high profile corruption charges against a former legislative leader and skyrocketing projected budget deficits, Paterson launched his first volley of the New Year at legislators.

Albany insiders are calling Paterson's speech antagonistic posturing and an attempt to boost his sagging poll numbers by attacking the equally unpopular legislative houses.

Legislators gave a notably cool reception to his speech, which included strong new ethics reform and a warning that he wouldn't write checks for state aid if the state was spending money they didn't have.

The scene at the state Capital had its curious political overtones.

Although the state Senate and Assembly are both dominated by Paterson's fellow Democrats, many of the proposals he presented - especially an ethics reform package released just before the address - received applause and ovation only from Assembly Republicans.

"We must address the chronic abuse of power," he said. "Chronic and continuing experiences of outside influence and inside decay have bred cynicism and scorn amongst the people we represent."

The Reform Albany Act would require legislators to disclose outside earnings, while imposing term limits and reducing the allowed amount of campaign contributions.

It would also abolish the current ethics oversight committee composed of legislators and create an independent commission with oversight jurisdiction over elected officials.

Imposing term limits on legislators would require an amendment to the State Constitution, an action that the governor said he intends to pursue.

Paterson argued that lobbyists are driving decisions in Albany by throwing money at legislators and essentially robbing the public of fair and open representation.

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