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Guv: Lawmakers must work until overdue budget is done

ALBANY - With the state budget nearly two weeks late, Gov. David A. Paterson Tuesday called for the legislature to remain in the Capitol until a fiscal plan is adopted.

Paterson told Newsday he planned to ask State Senate chief John Sampson (D-Brooklyn) and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) to keep the 210 lawmakers in Albany in hopes of spurring progress in budget talks. The governor wouldn't rule out compelling lawmakers' attendance if the leaders rejected his request.

"We need for members to consider staying here, which would signal to the public that we're ready to stay here until the job gets done," Paterson said in an interview. "I don't think the progress has been significant enough to persuade me we are moving in the right direction. . . . We need to change the process."

Sampson and Silver declined to comment.

Citing the $9.2-billion deficit, Paterson said it was imperative that agreement be reached soon on a 2010-11 fiscal plan. He said he wants a quick resolution but would hold out until June if it meant "a responsible budget" that closes this year's deficit and reduces future ones.

"If I gave in and accepted some of these phony remedies or reckless borrowing schemes, the damage would be worse than waiting until June," Paterson said.

The Senate and Assembly have agreed on about $3 billion in spending reductions. However, Paterson said the cuts need to total $5 billion. The rival plans each call for spending about $136 billion in the fiscal year that began April 1.

The Senate rejected Paterson's proposed tax on sugary beverages and increasing the cigarette tax by $1. The Assembly supports only the latter.

Paterson criticized borrowing plans put forward by both houses. The Senate wants to refinance bonds taken out against a tobacco settlement. The Assembly has embraced Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch's plan to borrow up to $2 billion to lessen the spending cuts.

Paterson said, "I recognize there may be some borrowing . . . but I don't think we should be borrowing $2 billion."

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