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Paterson proposes new economic development program

Gov. David A. Paterson delivers his State of

Gov. David A. Paterson delivers his State of the State speech in the Assembly Chamber at the Capitol in Albany. (Jan. 6, 2010) Credit: AP

ALBANY - Gov. David A. Paterson, who is seeking election this year, unveiled an economic development program Wednesday that he said would create tens of thousands of jobs.

The governor proposed revamping a system of tax credits to spur the growth of high technology companies and to convert university research into products. He also would boost aid to small businesses and revive Wall Street with a market for commercial insurance.

Those proposals were generally well received by lawmakers - in sharp contrast to others in the State of the State speech. For instance, legislative leaders ignored Paterson's call for significantly lower limits on campaign contributions and said they were working on their own plan to overhaul governmental ethics.

Paterson, a Democrat, was combative at times, criticizing lawmakers for failing to completely close this year's $3.2-billion deficit and special interests for subverting the people's will. The only politician that he praised was Gov. George Pataki, a Republican.

Paterson also reasserted his determination, despite low poll numbers, to run this year, even though many Democrats want Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to run for governor.

"This is the winter of our reckoning," Paterson told a joint legislative session. "There are more [budget] deficits up ahead that will require an even greater sacrifice . . . [but] there is still time to rebuild the Empire State."

To encourage the growth of firms specializing in clean energy, biotechnology, finance and high-tech manufacturing, he proposed replacing the Empire Zones economic development program with tax credits that reward job creation and innovative products. He said a $25 million seed fund would help university researchers collaborate with businesses.

State Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said the programs could aid Stony Brook University and Farmingdale State College, both home to business incubators. "Higher education can be a vehicle for job creation, particularly on Long Island," LaValle said.

In his 28-minute speech, Paterson said a cap on state spending, tougher ethics laws and reducing the influence of moneyed special interests would revive public confidence in Albany.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) applauded Paterson's economic plan and public financing of campaigns.

However, he said he opposed the creation of an agency to enforce ethics and campaign finance laws for both the governor's office and legislature. He also questioned the legality of requiring full disclosure of lawmakers' outside business activity.

Senate Democratic chief John Sampson of Brooklyn said he and Silver already were negotiating an ethics bill.

Although they clapped more than Democrats, Republicans expressed reservations about Paterson's fiscal austerity, noting it was a departure from his stance over 21 years as a senator.

Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos of Rockville Centre said Paterson had given a "confession of conscience" after agreeing to two state budgets that increased spending and taxes. "I hope he means what he says this time."

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