Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota and Democratic former Gov. David Paterson are in a war of words today over finding fault for the MTA fare hike.

Lhota, the former MTA chairman who presided over the increase, blamed Patersona and legislative leaders in a recent GOP mayoral forum for the hike because they “took hundreds of millions of dollars” from the MTA to plug budget deficits.

In a radio interview with Curtis Sliwa this morning on New York City’s AM 970 The Answer, Lhota said there was nothing to apologize to Paterson for after Sliwa suggested he accused the former governor of being a “thief.”

“I’m just re-stating facts,” Lhota said in the interview. “I didn’t say anything that required an apology.”

Calling in later that morning, Paterson angirly responded to Lhota’s claim, saying the money needed to be moved around in order to stave off a fiscal crisis.

“In addition to not knowing anything about the budget, he’s now showing he has no class,” Paterson said. “The reality is that between 2008 and 2009 the budget deficit quadrupled in this state and I did everything to make sure New York didn’t wind up in the place California got in. We were able to balance the budget. We balanced the budget by taking a number of resources away from the MTA and we projected it out of far as 2013 to keep the budget balanced.”

He added that Lhota is “a man who has no class, or better yet, class without the cl”

Paterson was appointed to the MTA board by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2012.

UPDATE: Lhota took time out from campaigning to call us to respond to this post. He noted the word “thief” never crossed his lips, but rather it was Sliwa who was “being provocative” by characterizing the former MTA chairman’s comments in that way.

“What I said was that (Paterson) and the Legislature took money from the MTA that had been dedicated there to balance the budget, and in the process they said the fares would have to go up every two years,” Lhota explained. “…I told Curtis on the show that I never said anything like that, and I’m not responding to anything like that.”

“…It’s well documented the money was taken out of the budget for the MTA. That’s merely a recitation of facts that you have to remind David.”