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Cuomo defends plan as GOP foes attack

Andrew M. Cuomo describes his 220-page "action plan" as a specific outline of how to restore the state's fiscal footing.

But his two Republican challengers for governor -- Carl P. Paladino and Rick Lazio -- counter that Cuomo is anything but specific -- even after the Democratic candidate defended his platform Wednesday in Buffalo.

Paladino and Lazio both weighed in after Cuomo discussed the budget and other state issues during an appearance in his Buffalo office, where he outlined a program to rein in mortgage rescue companies. When asked if he has been specific enough about balancing a deficit-plagued budget, Cuomo said borrowing and raising taxes are off the table.

The state, he emphasized, must cut spending because its revenues have decreased in a time of recession.

"I believe we can't raise more taxes," he said. "We have to cut the budget or find ways to do business differently finding more effective and more efficient ways to provide the service."

He took issue with any suggestion that he has failed to provide specifics about his budget-cutting plans, pointing to his book and a 20-minute video that detail his intentions.

"I want to make sure everyone knows what I believe and what I intend to do," he said.

But neither Paladino nor Lazio was buying Cuomo's claims.

"Andrew Cuomo has been AWOL on the entire budget fiasco," Paladino said after Cuomo's Buffalo appearance. "New Yorkers want to know how Andrew would handle the budget his party leaders have managed into an historic crisis."

"How will you 'not raise taxes,' Andrew? How will you downsize?" Paladino asked a day after calling for the layoff of state employees to close the budget gap. "Caps are for wimps, Andrew. Cuts take courage. What will you cut?"

Lazio asked similar questions in a phone call to The Buffalo News.

"Once again, he's refusing to be specific," he said. "Why can't he answer questions himself? Why can't he answer questions about exactly what he will cut? Will he cut the work force? What about managed care for Medicaid or means testing for Medicaid?"

Lazio said he had read Cuomo's book but remained unsatisfied. He also dismissed as a "fig leaf" Cuomo's claim Wednesday that combining many of the more than 1,000 state agencies and eliminating some of the more than 10,000 levels of government will result in substantial savings.

"You don't close a budget deficit by closing parks," Lazio said. "I've got a position on how to do that. He doesn't. And that's not acceptable to the people of New York."

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com

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