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Paterson sticks to fiscal problems amid questions

Gov. David A. Paterson speaks at a breakfast

Gov. David A. Paterson speaks at a breakfast forum in New York. (March 1, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

Trying mightily to change the subject from allegations against him, Gov. David A. Paterson Monday highlighted New York's fiscal problems in comments to residents and lobbyists.

In appearances in Brooklyn and Albany, Paterson spoke of the need to reduce spending and limit tax increases to close the projected $9.1-billion budget deficit. He urged lawmakers to join him in adopting a new budget by the April 1 deadline.

Paterson attempted to rise above partisanship, telling a Brooklyn town-hall meeting that he hoped to restore residents' trust in government. "We want you to believe that when government tells you something, it's true," he told a largely supportive crowd of 150.

Two hours later in the Capitol, Paterson extolled the benefits of taxing sugary beverages to combat obesity, particularly among the young. After both events, however, Paterson faced questions from reporters about his alleged interference in a domestic violence case involving his longtime aide and lying about receiving tickets to a 2009 World Series game.

Citing the advice of his lawyer, the governor refused to specifically rebut the charges. Paterson also maintained he could hammer out a new state budget with lawmakers despite the scandals surrounding him.

In Albany, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) agreed, saying, "I'm confident we can negotiate a budget with the governor and have it done in a few weeks." John Sampson of Brooklyn, the Democratic State Senate chief, called Paterson's effort to move beyond the controversies "the perfect approach."

The leaders and Paterson also agreed New York shouldn't take on more debt to erase deficits. They were responding to reports that Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch will include borrowing in his four-year fiscal plan. Ravitch told reporters the plan was still being formulated.

Tuesday, Paterson will speak privately about the budget to health care providers and the Senate's Republican conference. Monday, Paterson also talked about the budget with the state's Catholic bishops. They want reimbursement of the MTA payroll tax for parochial schools and the state to pay money owed for social services provided to the poor.

While most of the private session was about policy issues, Paterson's travails were also mentioned. "We know he's going through a difficult time," Bishop William Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre said in Albany. "We have a great deal of sympathy for him and assured him of our continued prayers."

- James T. Madore reported from Albany. Reid J. Epstein reported from Brooklyn

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