New York Gov. George E. Pataki signed a two-year extension Thursday of a "wild card" statute permitting state banks to obtain the same powers as national banks.

The law allows the New York State Banking Department to let state institutions enter new businesses as long as those activities are also permitted to national banks. The statute was to have expired in September.

Without the measure, New York regulators warned that many of the 180 state-chartered banks would migrate to a federal charter; eight of New York's 10 largest banks hold state charters.

"My administration was determined to do everything in its power to assist state-chartered institutions in their quest to compete with banks regulated by the Comptroller of the Currency," Gov. Pataki said.

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