Gov. David Paterson’s proposal to delay state income tax refund checks was called a travesty Wednesday by state lawmakers and Mohawk Valley residents.

To a state watchdog group, however, it is a clear signal of the extent of the state’s fiscal distress.

Assemblyman Marc Butler, R-Newport, called the proposal a horrible idea and said it’s already provoked New Yorkers.

“That is people’s money he’s just holding on to,” Butler said. “I understand we’re facing some serious difficulties, but some of the answers he’s coming up with, I just don’t think they’re the wise or prudent thing to do right now.”

If the state doesn’t have enough money to pay income-tax refunds on time, that should send a message to state residents, said Lise Bang-Jensen, senior policy analyst for the Empire Center for Public Policy.

“This demonstrates … how serious the state’s fiscal crisis is,” she said.

Tax refunds often are spent right away and could give the state’s economy a boost, Bang-Jensen said.

“We need to stimulate the economy,” she said. “So this is not only bad for individual New Yorkers, this is bad for the New York state economy.”…

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