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Arguments in governor's race focus on taxes

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, left, on

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, left, on Jan. 8, 2014 in Albany, and his Republican opponent Rob Astorino on March 7, 2014 in Albany. Credit: AP / Mike Groll

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Saturday did something rare: He uttered the name of his Republican election challenger, Rob Astorino. But just once, and just by last name.

While Astorino, the Westchester County executive, touted plans on a radio show to cut state taxes, Cuomo spoke at rallies in Hauppauge and Manhattan and attacked him for refusing to release his last five years of tax returns instead of just one.

"It's a way of saying, 'This is who I am,' basically," Cuomo said of candidates' decisions on making returns public. "Now, for Astorino, he was county executive during those years, so this should have been very simple, because he was working for the public . . . if he's not releasing his taxes, then the question is: Why not? And what does he have to hide?"

Astorino has said he provided five years of the financial disclosures he filed as county executive. The custom for statewide candidates has been to release one year of tax returns. Cuomo has put out the documents during his eight years as governor and state attorney general, though his 2009 returns were held back until after the 2010 election.

Astorino's campaign did not return a message for comment.

The tax returns attack by Cuomo is not new, but before was raised almost entirely by the Democrat's surrogates. Cuomo also seldom speaks Astorino's name in public.

Cuomo's campaign suggested the returns could shed more light on how Astorino earned more than $30,000 in outside money, including as a paid consultant to a media company.

Astorino spent the day greeting voters in Rockland County and at a Columbus Day festival on Staten Island. On the Larry Kudlow WABC/770 AM radio show, he pitched his plan to eliminate the estate tax and slash income and corporate tax rates.

"We need a real growth tax cutter," Astorino said.

The Republican criticized Cuomo for withholding permission for natural gas hydrofracking upstate, which Astorino said would bring down energy costs on Long Island, generate billions in new revenue and create thousands of jobs. Cuomo has delayed a fracking decision for almost four years.

Cuomo spoke to 250 union members, women's rights activists and candidates at a Hauppauge rally for the Women's Equality Party -- a ballot line he created this year -- to highlight Astorino's abortion opposition and appeal to women voters.

Cuomo traveled from a similar rally in Manhattan on a bus named "Women's Equality Express." He called for full passage of his 10-point Women's Equality Act, which stalled in the State Senate as Republicans balked over codifying into state law the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion decision.

"There is no nuance," Cuomo said. "What we want they don't want and what they want we don't want. It's that stark a choice."

Cuomo also endorsed Democrat Adrienne Esposito for State Senate in a 3rd District race against Republican Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci, citing her record on the environment and efforts to hold down taxes. A call to Croci's campaign for comment wasn't returned.

With Michael Gormley

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