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On LI, Cuomo asks lawmakers to take action

Governor Andrew Cuomo holds a People First event

Governor Andrew Cuomo holds a People First event Monday at Hofstra University. (May 16, 2011) Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Monday brought his bully pulpit to Long Island to press for gay marriage, a property tax cap and ethics reform, but the State Legislature's top Democrat dismissed the road show as "irrelevant" to getting anything accomplished in Albany.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) told reporters at the State Capitol in Albany Monday: "As far as I'm concerned, we're [legislators] here. We're governing. That's the important thing."

Silver's comments came after Cuomo appeared at Hofstra University in Hempstead, his latest stop in a statewide barnstorming tour designed to drum up public support and pressure the legislature to act on three signature issues. Gay marriage was defeated in 2009, while ethics and a tax cap have been stalled for more than a decade.

"Tell your legislators, either pass these bills or don't come home," Cuomo told the crowd.

Later, told of Silver's remarks, Cuomo said in a Newsday interview: "I think the people are relevant," and added: "I've been talking to the legislators for five months. I believe the people are an important part of the process."

The terse exchange Monday between two of the state's most powerful politicians follows Cuomo's ratcheting up his rhetoric in a roadshow that visits lawmaker's districts. Monday, as he did in Syracuse and Buffalo last week, Cuomo called June 20 -- the end of the legislative session -- "D-Day," referred to same-sex marriage as a "civil right," and said capping property taxes is "about respect for the taxpayer."

More such events -- dubbed the "People First" tour -- are planned this week, aides said.

Lawmakers have pushed back. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said last week that Cuomo was "heading in the direction of" former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who angered legislators with his own barnstorming tour against the Assembly's installation of Thomas DiNapoli as comptroller in 2007.

Skelos Monday praised Cuomo's Hofstra appearance, saying it was appropriate to push a property tax cap in Nassau, with its high tax burden.

Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City), whose district Cuomo visited, said the governor's tour could be effective, but wouldn't say whether he'd change his vote to "yes" on gay marriage or would support an ethics overhaul. Cuomo, he said, has not actually introduced a bill on either issue.

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