Paterson Reaches Out to Business

ALBANY—Still on the outs with labor, David Paterson is looking for support in the business community as he stares down a mid-year deficit.

He met yesterday on Park Avenue with members of the Partnership for New York City, and tonight is stopping in Rochester to address the Business Council of New York State's annual meeting. His message?

"He spoke specifically about fiscal responsibility, and that we have $38 billion of deficit to deal with in the next few years. We can't tax anymore, and we have to align spending with revenue," Carol Kellerman, the president of the Citizens Budget Commission, told me by phone. Her organization co-sponsored the gathering yesterday. Here's her best recollection of what Paterson said:

"In your business, if you had to face fiscal hard times, like you are, you'd have to analyze your business and get down to the core services your provide, and that's what we're going to have to do with state government."

"There are interest groups that don't want anything to change, and I'm going to need support from people like you."

"We're going to have to overcome that, and I need everybody in this room to be united in caring about that and sending that message to the legislature."

Business leaders are a less natural constituency for Democratic candidates in New York than labor unions. (Although it's not as if business leaders are going to throw in their lot with New York Republicans.)

Kellerman said that the message was not adversarial–there was no "us versus them"–but more an appeal for everyone to get on the same page.

"I wouldn't say 'take on,'" Kellerman said. "No one wants to take on anybody. Everyone wants consensus, and everyone wants everyone to understand that this is a serious problem and we all need to chip in."

Niether Paterson nor Richard Ravitch–who joined him at the conference–offered any specifics on what might be done to address the budget imbalance or when.