Thursday, August 7, 2008

Wednesday, August 6th 2008, 12:06 AM

Likening himself to gunslinger Gary Cooper in "High Noon," Gov. Paterson stuck to his guns Tuesday about facing down the state's looming $6.4 billion budget shortfall.

Asked about charges that he might be highballing the figure - which has led him to ask lawmakers to hack $600million from the current budget - Paterson hearkened back not to the Great Depression but a 1952 Western.

"I feel like Gary Cooper in 'High Noon,'" said Paterson in Queens. "I don't care if everyone else runs off the street and I'm the only one standing.

"That was my assessment of the fiscal situation. If the fiscal situation changes, then my assessment will change," he continued. "But that was my assessment last week, that's my assessment this week and I will stand on that principle. We'll find out who's right."

Changing the number won't wipe away the problem, he added. "Regardless of whether the [budget deficit] is $5 billion or $6.4 billion, is that a reason that we're not going to address it?"

Paterson is projecting a three-year deficit totaling $26.2billion, including a $6.4 billion shortfall next year. He wants the Legislature to make the additional cuts during an Aug. 19 special session he has called.

A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said he will work with Paterson to address the shortfall. But Silver, who has called Paterson "overly cautious," also has said he wants to wait to see revenue numbers in October before making any cuts.

Without naming names, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) Tuesday called simply slashing funds from public services an "amoral" approach.

"If you have a $600 million gap, there are three ways to fill it: You can fill it entirely with spending cuts or entirely with revenue-raisers or a combination," Brodsky told the Daily News. "The Legislature is going to try to add values and a social perspective to what is otherwise a pure exercise in numbers."

ckatz@nydailynews.com

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