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Lazio pledges not to raise taxes if elected governor

Rick Lazio signed a symbolic pledge on Long Island Wednesday not to raise taxes if he is elected governor, then flew to Syracuse to repeat the guarantee.

The former congressman gave no indication how the pledge would affect his fiscal policies as governor but said it "sends a message" that he is serious about bringing the budget under control and creating an environment that generates jobs in New York State.

"This absolutely sends a message by giving my word as my bond that I am going to oppose any new tax increases," Lazio said at a news conference in Mineola. "This state has been struggling for years because of the perpetual effort to raise taxes."

After commenting, Lazio walked a few steps to a tripod bearing a large "pledge" card that he signed.

It was also signed by two "witnesses:" state Conservative Party leader Michael Long, whose party's executive committee voted to support Lazio, and Nassau County Republican chairman Joseph Mondello, who is backing Lazio personally, although the GOP nomination is still up for grabs.

Another Republican candidate for governor, Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino, later tried to one-up Lazio on the anti-tax pledge.

"We won't sign that pledge," Paladino spokesman Michael Caputo said. "We'll only sign a pledge that promises to cut both taxes and spending."

Speaking with reporters Wednesday before a private meeting with Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy was asked about Lazio's pledge, and recalled the 2000 Senate debate in which he walked across the stage and demanded Hillary Rodham Clinton sign another pledge.

"He got in her face and said, 'We're both going to pledge right here that we won't accept soft money,' and within a couple of weeks he broke that pledge," Levy said.

"So give me a break with the pledges. People are looking at whether or not you have a history of balancing budgets and keeping taxes under control, and that's what I have."

Lazio said at the Mineola event that he was confident he would gain the Republican nomination and run for governor on both the Republican and Conservative lines.

"I'm totally confident I'm going to be the nominee of the Republican Party and the Conservative Party," he said, repeating his contention that one recent poll showed him ahead among likely Republican and Conservative voters.

With Elizabeth Moore

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