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ALBANY-The New York State Legislature approved a 2008-2009 budget on Wednesday that calls for more than $80 billion in state spending. Included in the enacted budget is a $1.6-billion economic development program and $300 million pegged for affordable housing initiatives throughout the state.

The economic development program includes a $700-million Upstate Revitalization Fund, which turns out to be $300 million less than what former Gov. Spitzer had originally proposed earlier this year for the struggling Upstate New York region. “Especially in these difficult economic times, when families are feeling the effects of a likely recession, we must make the critical investments that will create jobs and expand opportunity for all New Yorkers,” says Gov. David Paterson, in a prepared statement. “The strategic plan for growth we are implementing today will help unlock Upstate’s great economic potential and enhance communities throughout our state.” The plan features $180 million targeted to major projects in Upstate cities, including $55 million for Midtown Plaza in Downtown Rochester and another $50 million for the University of Rochester’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

Downstate, the economic development program looks to spend $35 million for regional projects, another $35 million in community investments and an additional $35 million for a Downstate Revitalization Fund. The budget also calls for funds to be spent on rebuilding parks, affordable housing, and other initiatives.

Gov. Patterson also reports that the state will spend more than $300 million to address the shortage of affordable housing in the state, a $200-million increase from what the state has traditionally spent in this area. “Affordable housing is critically important for the health and vibrancy of our state,” Gov. Patterson says. “It is an engine for economic development and job creation, helps to strengthen families and communities and improves the quality of life for working families, senior citizens and people living with disabilities.”

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