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Cuomo defends unilateral action on key issues

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks during the NAACP's

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks during the NAACP's 106th annual national convention in Philadelphia on Wednesday, July 15, 2015, in Philadelphia. Cuomo told the audience that New York is working to restore public trust in law enforcement following the deaths of unarmed civilians at the hands of police. Credit: AP / Matt Rourke

ALBANY - Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo defended his practice of going around the state Legislature to unilaterally make major policy changes, saying he's merely using the power granted to the state's chief executive.

The Democrat has been using those powers more frequently. In recent months, he's moved to appoint a special prosecutor for cases involving police killing civilians and launch a wage board that is expected to hike pay for fast-food workers. He also bypassed the Democrat-led Assembly to sign an agreement with the Republican-controlled Senate regarding funding of a gun-law database.

"I am the executive and, therefore, I use executive powers," Cuomo said on The Capitol Pressroom, a public radio program. "I have many powers beyond those which the Legislature has. ... The executive -- whether it's the president, the mayor or the governor -- you run the government and you have a whole host of powers that are apart and aside from the Legislature."

Cuomo, in 2011, was blasted by Republicans when he said "I am the government" in response to an interviewer's question about a poll regarding state government. The governor later said he meant he was responsible for what happens in Albany.

Pro-business groups have criticized the governor for handpicking a wage board that will make a recommendation to Cuomo's labor commissioner, essentially saying the process is fixed. Cuomo hasn't shied away from saying he supports a wage hike.

District attorneys have criticized the special prosecutor initiative and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) has knocked the governor's side deal with Republicans.

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