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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

At inaugural, waiting for Cuomo's encore

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is greeted by thunderous

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is greeted by thunderous applause in Thompson, N.Y. on Dec. 18, 2014. Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

Rhetoric soars in inaugural speeches. So it seems fitting that Andrew M. Cuomo will deliver his second such address as governor Thursday at 1 World Trade Center, the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere, which opened Nov. 3, the day before his re-election to a second term.

The governor, who likes symbolic balance, will hold a second ceremony in Buffalo, bestowing attention on a region where his approval numbers are not as high-rise.

Over the next few weeks, Cuomo faces a ritualized cycle. The inaugural provides an occasion for high aspiration and airy assertion. Next week comes the State of the State address, with its grab bag of proposals under broad titles. Later in the month, there's the executive budget proposal, with its prosaic detail.

The real questions arise once the new legislative session begins in earnest.

Arthur J. Kremer, a lawyer and consultant who served for 23 years in the state Assembly, sees Cuomo "facing the new year with a very strained relationship with both [major] parties."

"The first four years, by and large, were pretty much everyone singing 'Kumbaya,' " said Kremer, a Democrat. "The next four years, the song will be 'Give Us Hope.' "

Cuomo will inevitably echo what he boasted of throughout the recent campaign: an improved economic picture and other signs of what he calls a "fiscally moderate and socially progressive" agenda.

In his recent book "All Things Possible," Cuomo said that "while we have made more progress than I thought we could have made in the first four years, there is so much more to do. Public education is at the top of the list."

The governor has already hinted at where he's going on public schools. For him, reform means confronting teachers' unions across the state. To that end, he has even taken the eyebrow-raising step of vetoing a bill he proposed. This would have delayed linking teacher evaluations to students' test scores. Cuomo said the bill fails to "fix the foundational issues" with that evaluation system.

In the legislature, however, educators and their unions continue to wield clout. So do detractors of Common Core, who now have their own ballot line.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) is reported to be facing another tricky federal inquiry, involving his private legal practice. But an off-balance Silver, if that's what he is, may have no impact on Cuomo's legislative program.

Senate GOP leader Dean Skelos' win of an outright majority last month strengthens the hand of a caucus that has been quite cordial with Cuomo. But this year, the governor made something of a display of supporting Democratic control in that house. Don't be surprised if that makes Republicans a bit less receptive, even if some Senate Democrats privately questioned the extent of Cuomo's commitment to their cause.

Since Election Day, Cuomo has taken high-profile steps to define the new term, or at least close out the old one. He banned hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. He closed ranks with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie against a Port Authority reform bill that both state legislatures approved. He released proposed upstate casino sites and then moved to add one.

Everyone at Thursday's ceremonies will wait to hear just how Cuomo defines "fiscally moderate and socially progressive" for 2015 -- which is to say, what he does for an encore.


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