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State lawmakers back Paterson's idea, seek details

ALBANY - Lawmakers are generally supportive of Gov. David A. Paterson's proposal for a $25-million loan fund to aid small businesses, though they want more details.

Legislative leaders said it made sense to support entrepreneurs who are responsible for creating most new jobs, particularly with New York's high unemployment rate. They are anxious to see how Paterson pays for the revolving loan fund in his proposed 2010-11 budget, due out Jan. 19.

The fund is one of the few ideas in last week's State of the State speech not to be dismissed outright by lawmakers who remain angry with Paterson for his frequent criticism of them.

Travis Proulx, a spokesman for the state Senate's Democratic majority, said they liked the fund because of the success of a similar state initiative in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

In the past, the Assembly's Democratic majority has backed aid to small businesses. "But we would need to see the specific details of this program to ensure scarce resources are used in the most effective way to create jobs," said Dan Weiller, a top aide to Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan).

Despite this cautious embrace, small-business groups predicted Paterson's loan fund would be adopted in some form before the legislature ends its regular session on June 21. They said lawmakers were looking for ways to placate business owners angry over last year's budget that hiked taxes and spending.

"People are very fed up with this government and I think the legislators are worried . . . they are looking for ways to demonstrate that they aren't trying to kill small business" with taxes and regulations, said Michael Elmendorf of the National Federation of Independent Business.

However, the Senate's Republican minority was skeptical of the loan fund, saying lower taxes and less state spending would spur job growth. Scott Reif, a spokesman for Senate GOP chief Dean Skelos of Rockville Centre, said, "New York should be doing more to help businesses across the state by reducing business taxes and getting its own spending under control."

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