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NY state legislature deserves "F" on budget: poll

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York's fractious state legislature deserves an "F" for its work on a budget for fiscal 2011, still elusive three-and-a-half months into the new year, a poll found on Thursday.

Forty-seven percent of voters would award the legislature a failing grade, and another 24 percent would give it a "D", according to the latest Siena College poll of 760 registered voters conducted July 6 to 12.

New York began its fiscal year on April 1, but lawmakers remain divided on how to close a more than $9 billion deficit in the $136 billion budget.

"If your children came home from college with a grade point average of less than 1.0, you might think about not paying for them to go back to school the next semester," said Siena pollster Steven Greenberg.

"Will voters return legislators to Albany this November after flunking them for their most important job? It's going to be a fascinating election to watch," he said.

The survey found 27 percent of voters would grade Governor David Paterson's performance at "F," and another 24 percent would grade him at "D."

Forty-nine percent of those polled support Paterson's vetoing of certain budget items in weekly spending bills. The governor has been forced to keep the state running by signing emergency bills.

But 58 percent of those surveyed disapproved of Paterson's decision to veto $600 million of additional school aid funding that the legislature had inserted.

"While many newspaper editorials and budget watchers praised the governor's widespread use of the veto pen, voters are less supportive generally, and downright opposed when it comes to money for their school districts," said Greenberg.

Lawmakers have rejected a series of revenue-raising measures proposed by the governor, including a soft drink tax, allowing grocers sell wine and a cap on property taxes.

Unlike the federal government, all state governments except Vermont are obliged to keep their budgets in balance, forcing officials in sluggish economic times to either cut spending or raise taxes. New York lawmakers typically are months late in agreeing on a budget.

The poll found Democratic candidates continue to lead Republican rivals in the race for governor, the Senate and state comptroller in elections scheduled for November.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has maintained his more than 30 percentage-point lead over Republican rival Rick Lazio and more than 40-point lead over Lazio's rival Carl Paladino in the race for governor.

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli leads rival Harry Wilson by 48 percent to 24 percent, up from 42 percent to 23 percent in June.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 6.9 percentage points.

(Reporting by Ciara Linnane, editing by Philip Barbara)