With his state facing a $14 billion budget deficit, Gov. David Paterson says he will take a 10 percent pay cut, but won't ask staffers and lawmakers to do the same.
"I will symbolically make the gesture for the state. I'm the governor, I'm the leader of the state," Paterson said Thursday in Buffalo, where he spent the day meeting with regional development and business leaders.
The governor's comments came a day after a lively town hall meeting in Niagara Falls, where members of the public confronted him about the area's poor economy and crumbling roads.
"You're asking us to sacrifice and tighten our belts and everything and I just want to know why can't you just give the senators and the assemblymen a 10 percent pay cut?" Niagara Falls resident Lena Rochon asked.
Paterson said eliminating the budget deficit would do more to help residents.
"If we can close that budget deficit in the next few weeks, I'm
not asking anyone else, nor do I recommend that anyone else, do
anything," he said Thursday.
His pay cut will save the state about $18,000 a year.
The town hall meeting in Niagara Falls and one planned in Rochester next week come as Paterson contends with the lowest approval rating of any New York governor in 30 years of Marist College polling. Paterson's 26 percent job approval rating was down from 46 percent in January and 57 percent in October, according to the latest Marist poll released Monday.
Frustration was evident at Wednesday's forum.
"You're not demonstrating how you're feeling our pain, if at all," said Ric Marasco, who cited the recent purchase of a $200 toaster for the governor's mansion.
On Thursday, Paterson sought to assure economic development and business leaders that the state's fiscal crisis will not interfere with regional projects.
"This is no time to become timid, anxious or frightened," Paterson said after a half-hour meeting at the Empire State Development Corp.'s Buffalo office. "This is a time to actually be more assertive and more aggressive with economic development in this area."
Paterson also met privately with members of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, a business advocacy group.
The governor is paid $179,000 a year and has use of the governor's mansion.