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N.Y. LAWMAKERS AIR SENTIMENTALITY, DOUBTS

Republicans as well as Democrats from New York on Thursday voiced a mixture of skepticism and sentimentality about President Clinton's last annual message.

Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence, asked: "What does the message mean to Western New York? It means higher spending and bigger government -- with the president outlining at least 21 new programs -- at a cost of $150 billion."

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said the speech marked "the end of an era."

"Whatever else you can say about him, . . . one of the things he's done is bring American politics close to the center. He also understood that government should be a means of making people's lives better, that it's not some abstract ideological battlefield.

"I will worry that, whoever succeeds him, whether those things will stay with us."

Schumer saw the address as "more sentimental for people than we imagine. Whether you liked or hated him or somewhere in between, everybody took an eight-year journey with him."

Rep. John J. LaFalce, D-Tonawanda, described what might have been on the president's mind as he appeared at a joint session of Congress this way:

"I'd say, I've got this one huge stain on my record, and how can I make other things come to the fore? I've achieved so much and I want to be remembered for what I've achieved. And what can I do in the one remaining year I have as president to take away the memory of the tarnish? I've got to do everything I possibly can."

Clinton, LaFalce said, has had "an excellent seven-year public record, and he will strive to do as much as he can."

Reynolds said he didn't want to "accept or reject any of the president's proposals until we've really had a chance to look at them. But I am concerned about how we're going to help Western New York claim a greater share of the national economic growth.

"Bigger, more expensive government certainly isn't the answer."

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