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Andrew Cuomo State of the State speech presses for tax cuts, 'women's agenda'

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 - Kicking off his re-election year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo delivered a State of the State address Wednesday built on familiar themes: cutting business taxes, investing in infrastructure, and passing ethics laws and a "women's agenda" that includes strengthening abortion rights.

The Democrat proposed a $2 billion education bond act to be used to upgrade school technology and help fund infrastructure for prekindergarten programs. But the borrowing plan, if approved by voters, still wouldn't pay for operating costs to establish full-day prekindergarten programs.

Cuomo also proposed taking over management responsibilities for upgrades at LaGuardia and Kennedy airports from the Port Authority.

In a speech devoted heavily to his previous accomplishments, Cuomo said he's turned the state around during his first three years in office. The one-hour, seven-minute speech was titled "Building on Success."

"The state is much stronger than it was three years ago," Cuomo said. "We stopped talking and we started doing, and in three years, my friends, you have reversed decades of decline. . . . The proof is in the pudding."

Cuomo, who has nearly $29 million stockpiled for his campaign, went through a list of his work over the past three years. He touted his efforts to rein in spending, enact timely state budgets and jump-start high-profile construction projects, such as replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River and building casinos upstate.

"We have given New Yorkers a government that costs less, taxes less and actually does more for the people who are in need," he said.


The detailsAs in previous years, Cuomo tried to lay out a socially liberal, but fiscally moderate-to-conservative agenda, touching on medical marijuana, inmate recidivism, tourism promotions, construction projects and tax relief.

Many of his initiatives had been announced in the days leading up to the speech, including a plan to legalize medical marijuana in very limited circumstances and initiatives for dealing with severe storms, including establishing "microgrids" to reduce power outages.

He reiterated a proposal unveiled Monday to "freeze" property taxes for two years. In fact, Cuomo is proposing an income-tax credit for homeowners to offset property-tax increases. To get the credit, homeowners would have to live in a municipality that stays within the state's 2 percent property-tax cap and takes steps to share or consolidate services with other jurisdictions.

Cuomo also called for reducing corporate and manufacturing taxes, and a tax credit for New York City renters. Even if it's approved by the legislature this year, New Yorkers probably wouldn't see any savings before 2015, by and large. The proposed cuts are built on projections of future budget surpluses.

With New York Mayor Bill de Blasio watching, Cuomo touted the benefits of prekindergarten -- a primary agenda item for de Blasio. But Cuomo didn't propose a way to fund prekindergarten expansion, setting up a possible policy fight during the 2014 legislative session.

Cuomo renewed his call for a "women's agenda" that includes nine items that lawmakers of both parties backed -- such as cracking down on pay discrimination -- and one that was defeated in the politically split Senate: to codify current Roe v. Wade abortion rights under state law.


Bipartisan praiseThe governor also revived ethics proposals to establish public financing of campaigns and make it easier to prosecute bribery. Legislators rejected the proposals last year in part because of a provision that would have given the governor power to appoint a special counsel to investigate election-law violations.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said Cuomo "did good a job on the past and going over his three years as governor" and outlined a "bold vision for the future." But he added that he wants to "see how [Cuomo] pays for" his initiatives in a state budget proposal in two weeks.

Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said with a laugh that, overall, Cuomo sounded like "a good moderate Republican."

"I liked the whole tone of the speech," Skelos said. "It was very focused on job creation. There will be some differences of opinion, I'm sure, as to how we implement it."

However, a potential gubernatorial rival called it "a laundry list of proposals that lacked both funding and detail."

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, whom Republican leaders are promoting to take on Cuomo, said: "More people are leaving New York than any other state. I heard nothing of substance today that would reverse that course."

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