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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Cuomo speech strikes a progressive, tax-cutting theme

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo delivers his annual State

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo delivers his annual State of the State address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany. (Jan. 8, 2014) Credit: AP

ALBANY -- A Twitter-friendly version of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's hour-plus election-year state-of-the-state message might have read: "I'm a progressive. I'm also a tax-cutter and infrastructure builder. New York's getting better now. Here's my resume."

The progressive theme, of course, comes amid the hubbub over the new kid on the block, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was on hand to listen and push his familiar tax-the-rich-to-fund-universal-pre-K proposal.

But the remarks sounded consistent with what Cuomo said before, in content if not in emphasis.

One portion of the governor's speech called for a $2 billion "Smart Schools" bond issue that would include funding for "new pre-K classrooms and capital upgrades." Cuomo said it was time to fulfill the state's previously stated goal of universal pre-K access for all kids, leaving the funding question open.

As New York's newest big player, for whom the P-word is a constant mantra, de Blasio also seemed to have no conflict with Cuomo reviving his women's-rights legislative agenda. Nor would he tangle with Cuomo's statement that "fairness and justice has been a crucial goal of the past three years."

A single discordant instant came when somebody booed Cuomo's announcement that former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly would advise the administration on setting up a college for homeland security and emergency preparedness.

But Cuomo is running for office this year throughout a state where he knows that curbing taxes and developing business give progressivism a run for the money as powerful mantras.

If slashing taxes and progressivism do conflict on some level, well, the governor is ready to deny that, or at least let philosophers slug it out over the definitions and differences.

In fact, he started the speech urging measures to curb property taxes beyond the previously enacted state cap. The new proposals would cut the franchise tax rate from 7.1 percent to 6.5 percent, and exempt the estate tax on estates of less than $5.25 million in worth, rather than the current $1 million.

For infrastructure, Cuomo talked about taking over management of construction at Kennedy and LaGuardia airports from the bi-state Port Authority -- along with moving ahead with post-Sandy redevelopment.

On its own, the clearest sign that the governor faces re-election came as he reviewed the last three years, saying the only way to understand "how much we accomplished" was to recall how "three years ago, New York's government was a national punch line." Unemployment is down now, and fiscal discipline restored, he said.

Another sign of the political calendar came from the way one detractor in particular attacked Cuomo. Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the most prominent potential GOP challenger to Cuomo in November, spoke in a statement of high taxes, debt, and corruption cases, and what Astorino called the nation's "worst business climate."

Let the games begin.

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