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Astorino announces his 'empowerment and opportunity' plan

Westchester County executive Rob Astorino, the Republican challenger

Westchester County executive Rob Astorino, the Republican challenger for governor, seeking to unseat Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in the Nov. 4, 2014, election. He is shown above during a barbecue appearance in Hicksville on June 28, 2014. Credit: Uli Seit, File

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino joined supporters in the South Bronx Tuesday to unveil a five-point "empowerment and opportunity plan" that would tighten access to public assistance programs and create tougher gun penalties.

"We've got a plan to empower individuals, to empower and expect much from our fathers and to empower our communities," said Astorino, the Westchester County executive, who is running against Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in the Nov. 4 election.

Astorino was joined by state Sen. Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx) and about a dozen supporters holding "Latinos for Astorino" signs in front of Lincoln Medical Center.

To address crime, Astorino proposed a gun law that mirrors California's Use a Gun and You're Done Law. Astorino said he would add 10 years to a prison sentence for criminals caught using a gun to commit a felony, 20 years if the gun is fired while committing a crime, and an additional 25 years to life sentence if the gun kills or wounds another person during the crime.

Astorino also called for changes to federal public assistance programs like food stamps and Medicaid, which are administered by the state and each county's social services department.

Fingerprinting of food stamp applicants would be restored, to "cut down on fraud," Astorino said. In 2012, Cuomo eliminated the state requirement at the urging of social services advocates who argued it cast low-income residents as criminals.

The plan would also provide budgeting and financial planning classes for public assistance recipients.

Astorino said that while those living in poverty "need to be lifted up and treated as fairly as everyone else . . . what we shouldn't do is continue with the status quo of just throwing more money at the problem and not solving the problem and keeping people in generational poverty."

Astorino also called for a public campaign to get fathers to become more involved in their children's lives. He would require the name of newborns' biological fathers to appear on birth certificates.

Asked if that would apply to victims of rape or those who use artificial insemination, Astorino responded, "Obviously if she doesn't know, she doesn't know, but in the cases where she does, there should be responsibility and a dad should be listed there."

To spur job development, Astorino said he would create a small-business mentoring program for those looking to establish businesses and professional offices in "underserved communities."

Cuomo's campaign did not respond to requests for comment on Astorino's proposals.

Cuomo addressed health care workers in Manhattan Tuesday at an Ebola education seminar.

Cuomo's office also announced the launch of a program that will provide state facilities with "real-time data on their energy use" in an effort to lower the state's utility bills.

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