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Paterson: 'It's time to get back to business'

  • Story Highlights
  • Lt. Gov. David Paterson to become New York's governor Monday
  • Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned after being tied to a prostitution ring
  • His top priority is to pass a budget by month's end, Paterson says
  • Paterson will be state's first African-American and legally blind governor
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ALBANY, New York (CNN) -- Four days before he is slated to take the reins of power as governor of New York, Lt. Gov. David Paterson said Thursday that he wanted to get the government "back on track."

"It is time to get back to business," he said during a news conference at the state Capitol.

The state's leadership suffered a shock Tuesday when federal authorities accused Gov. Eliot Spitzer of having patronized prostitutes.

On Wednesday, the man who had cultivated the image of a squeaky-clean law-and-order governor resigned effective Monday. Paterson will replace him then.

Paterson said he has been working to put together a budget by the end of the month. "We cannot afford to waste another second," he said.

Though Spitzer's style has been described by some as fractious, Paterson said he expects to work in a bipartisan fashion.

Paterson, 53, said he and Spitzer shared "the same general points of view."

But those points of view may not translate into the same policies. Asked whether he would honor Spitzer's vow not to raise personal income taxes, Paterson hedged.

"We are looking at a recession and, I think, a stock market that's in flux, our major investment houses under siege, our banks, in a sense, borrowing from other countries," he said.

"We have a huge economic problem in this country, and I don't necessarily know when that might become an issue, but I'm hoping that it won't be in the near future."

He added, "I want to pass this budget in a way that is commensurate with the tremendous economic hardships that our budget has experienced but at the same time recognizes that there are people out there with families and there are people out there with needs, and to try to balance all that would be my priority, and I will try to put all my energy into it." Video Watch Paterson discuss his readiness to get to work »

Asked about the potential for Spitzer to face criminal charges, he said, "I know what he's gone through this week, and I think he has suffered enough."

But, he added, he will leave such decisions to prosecutors.

Paterson, who lives in Harlem with his wife and their two children and who serves as an adjunct professor at Columbia's School for International and Public Affairs, noted that he will be New York's first blind African-American governor.

"In some ways, I feel that I'm sitting on a sand castle that other people built," he said, adding that among those who have fought for equality are some who "would have been far more qualified than me to serve in this position."

Paterson, who is legally blind, pointed to the fact that 71 percent of blind people and 90 percent of deaf people are unemployed, which he described as a waste of potential.

He also noted that the average disabled person has reached a higher educational level than the public at large.

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"Maybe one of them could figure out a cure for cancer, but we can't get them into the workplace," he said.

"So, to whatever extent my presence impresses upon employers or impresses upon younger people who are like me in either way, or Hispanics or women -- we've never had a governor from either of those communities -- then I would feel very privileged, very proud and very flattered to be in this position." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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