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Astorino backs term limits as Cuomo touts jobless drop

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino Thursday called for

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino Thursday called for eight-year term limits for statewide office holders and members of the State Legislature, while Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo touted a drop in unemployment. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp, Getty Images

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino Thursday called for eight-year term limits for statewide office holders and members of the State Legislature, while Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo touted a drop in unemployment.

Astorino, the Westchester County executive, told a crowd of two dozen students at New York University in Manhattan that if elected he would sign legislation limiting the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and comptroller to two consecutive four-year terms.

Members of the Senate and the Assembly would be restricted to four two-year terms, but Astorino said he would start the clock for lawmakers after the law went into effect.

New York has no term limit.

"It wasn't supposed to be this way," Astorino said. "Public office was supposed to be a higher calling, not a vocation . . . Now you have to pry politicians from their seats. They have to be dragged from office by their fingernails."

Astorino said that in his first year in office, he would call a special legislative session and demand a vote on term limits. If the bill fails, Astorino said he would call for the measure to be put on the ballot as a referendum in 2017.

Cuomo Thursday held a news conference on Wall Street to tout state labor figures showing a dip in New York's unemployment rate.

Cuomo said State Department of Labor figures show the state's unemployment rate dropped from 6.4 percent in August to 6.2 in September -- the lowest level since 2008. The state added 4,500 jobs in September, he said.

"Today, we're seeing a different New York, one that has put its fiscal house in order," Cuomo said.

Cuomo was joined by members of the Tax Foundation, a nonprofit tax research group that honored the state with the "Outstanding Achievement in State Tax Reform" award.

Joseph Henchman, vice president of state projects for the group, said New York received the award because its efforts to increase the corporate tax base "mark a tremendous first step toward reforming one of the least-competitive tax codes in the nation."

Cuomo said Thursday he was "open to discussing" term limits.

But Democrats in Westchester questioned Astorino's record on the issue.

In 2010, the Westchester Board of Legislators passed a bill limiting the county executive to three, four-year terms and legislators to six consecutive two-year terms.

Astorino declined to sign or veto the measure, allowing it to automatically go into law. Astorino said Thursday that he supported the bill but declined to sign it because he wanted it to be retroactive.

"In another stint of desperate hypocrisy, Astorino will attempt to claim he supports term limits on the campaign trail," said Mike Morey, spokesman for the Astorino Truth Squad, a group formed by the Westchester County Democratic Committee.A spokesman for Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) did not respond to a request for comment on Astorino's proposal. A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Speaker (D-Manhattan) declined to comment.

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