Gov. George Pataki on Tuesday proposed spending $80 million to construct a visitors center on the World Trade Center site, marking the first time state government has offered money to help rebuild any of the 16 acres of ground zero.

Pataki said the proposed donation to the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation would "fulfill our solemn obligation to the families of the heroes, friends, neighbors and loved ones we lost and create a unified and unforgettable visitor experience to honor their memory."

Pataki is including the $80 million donation in his proposed executive budget, which requires the state Legislature's approval.

Construction would begin next year, and the center would be scheduled to open in 2009, along with the memorial and a museum.

A Norwegian architecture firm first designed the building eight months ago to house two museums: the Drawing Center and the International Freedom Center.

The Drawing Center decided last summer to look for another home, and Pataki removed the freedom museum from the building after victims' families complained it would dishonor the memory of those killed in the 2001 terrorist attacks and take attention from the memorial.

If approved, the state money would be added to the $102 million the nonprofit foundation has raised privately and $300 million pledged by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. rebuilding agency to construct a $490 million memorial and other buildings at ground zero.