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Queens’ state reps praise Gov. Paterson’s resolve

Policy proposals detailed in Gov. David Paterson’s State of the State address could mean good news for Queens residents, despite the $15 billion budget deficit lawmakers are struggling to close, borough legislators said.

“The governor finally moved beyond the mantra of cut, cut, cut and offered some proactive strategies for growing the economy and protecting New Yorkers during the downturn,” said state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D−Fresh Meadows) adding, “I think he recognizes that the budget can’t be balanced by nickel and diming the middle class to death.”

According to borough legislators, middle and lower income Queens residents, like New Yorkers across the state, could see wealthier residents shoulder more of the tax burden and could benefit from increased access to health care with policies proposed by Paterson.

Paterson suggested in his December budget proposal that legislators place a tax on a variety of things, from iPod downloads to soda — a move Lancman said many of his constituents were not too happy about.

“I was happy the governor specifically said something like the only way will get out of this budget mess is through shared sacrifice,” Lancman said. “In policy and politics, shared sacrifice is a euphemism for increasing taxes on the very wealthiest New Yorkers, so it’s not only the middle class and working class New Yorkers who are being asked to shoulder the burden.”

Queens lawmakers praised the governor’s “45 by 15” plan, which outlined a goal of the state meeting 45 percent of its electricity needs through renewable means by 2015.

“I was proud to see that Gov. Paterson spent a significant portion of time in his State of the State address to focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency,” said state Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D−Forest Hills). “As chairman of the Assembly Subcommittee on Renewable Energy, I am looking forward to working with the governor to help the state achieve his bold, clean energy goal of 45 by 15.”

Assemblymen Lancman and Mark Weprin (D−Little Neck) threw their weight behind the governor’s health initiatives.

Paterson called on legislators to focus on curbing the obesity epidemic that has ravaged not only New York, but the entire nation. The governor also said he hopes to make health care more affordable for state residents, particularly younger New Yorkers, by increasing eligibility for Family Health Plus.

The move, Paterson said, would expand coverage to about 400,000 more New Yorkers.

“I like the fact he’s talking about making it easier for young people between the ages of 21 and 29 to get access to health insurance by enabling them to tack on to their parents’ health insurance,” Lancman said. “I like that he’ll make it easier for people to access Child Health Plus. Hundreds of thousands of people are going to be losing their jobs and their health care. These are things the state can do to ease the pain people will feel in the economic downturn.”

While Weprin contends there are issues in the governor’s budget that need to be changed, such as possibly the soda tax, the assemblyman said he appreciated the governor’s forthright approach when discussing what Paterson called a “perilous” economy.

“There will be a lot of things that are going to be tweaked, but the governor made a strong effort to be as fair as possible. The financial problems that hit New York are devastating. The governor is not making happy talk nor should he. He’s showing real leadership in that he’s telling it like it is.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at agustafson@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 174.

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