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Gov. Pataki signed legislation today that cuts taxes for growing "call center" companies such as Buffalo's Softbank Services and will serve as the partial blueprint for a 1998 re-election campaign hinging upon job creation.

Pataki concluded his two-day stay in Western New York with the bill-signing ceremony outside Softbank's new administrative facility in Amherst, with Softbank President Jordan Levy heaping praise on the governor and Western New York legislators for the bi-partisan effort.

The immediate effect of the governor's signature, he said, will be 300 new Softbank jobs in Buffalo over the next three months.

"Yes the bill is critically important," Levy told about 100 onlookers gatherered for the ceremony. "But what really stood out was the fact this passed in just one year with no lobbyists or no trade associations. There was just one good, solid reason to do it -- it created jobs."

The new legislation, sponsored by Sen. Mary Lou Rath, R-Williamsville, and Assemblyman Paul A. Tokasz, D-Cheektowaga, allows New York State companies to warehouse merchandise for shipment without having to pay state sales and corporate taxes.

It deals especially with "fulfillment companies" like Softbank, which process orders for other companies and then ship the inventory.

"It was a bill I truly felt deserved passage and allowed business to expand here in Western New York," Tokasz said.

Pataki said the state's old tax law served as an "impediment" to growth, with Sen. Rath noting Gateway 2000 Inc. predicated its new business with Softbank on the condition that the company's Las Vegas facility handle the account.

That meant the Buffalo operation lost out on 175 new call center jobs, Sen. Rath said.

"That got our attention," the senator said.

But as Pataki signed the bill, he said it reflects the pro-business tenor of his administration and his drive to reduce state taxes.

"All we have to do is create the right tax climate and economic-development climate and we will succeed."

Pataki also touted his job-creation claims, indicating 226,000 new jobs have sprung up since he took office.

That stems from the state's No. 1 position in cutting taxes over the last three years -- a pace he said is higher during that period than all other states combined.

"We want to see jobs like these here at Softbank grow," the governor said.

Pataki's morning appearance followed a Thursday evening speech before the 100 Club's 35th Annual Heroes Award Dinner at Park Country Club in Amherst where he saluted the families of police and firefighters.

"Behind every courageous cop and firefighter is a spouse and family of equal courage," Pataki told more than 200 people.

"You are proof of that," he continued.

"Throughout their careers, you endured the long nights of uncertainty. Every step of the way you supported and loved them. And as difficult as it is, you are here this evening."

The governor, whose father was a volunteer firefighter, also thanked the 100 Club, which has raised more than $400,000 to assist families of fallen heroes and has funded 90 education grants for injured police officers and firefighters.

But Pataki saved his highest accolades for the men and women on public safety's front lines.

"There's no greater sacrifice than the one police and firefighters are asked to make every day -- to risk your lives for ours," he said. "You've ignored the threat of raging fires, toxic fumes, deadly rapids and violent criminals to help total strangers. Despite the very real potential threat of injury -- or even death -- you rushed into harm's way to aid your fellow man."

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