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Andrew Cuomo speech lacked specifics, LI Republicans say

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo giving his

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo giving his State of the State speech at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany, NY Wednesday Jan, 3, 2018. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s State of the State address hinted at a possible bid for the Oval Office but offered few details about how to deal with fiscal problems in New York, Republican lawmakers from Long Island said Wednesday.

But some Island Democrats said Cuomo warned fittingly of impending tax hikes in the federal tax law, and said they supported Cuomo’s fight against the measure.

Overall, the governor’s eighth address to state officials in Albany drew mixed reactions. In particular, a revived push to build a tunnel from the Island to either Connecticut or Westchester got a lukewarm reception.

Republicans said Cuomo’s address featured lofty goals with no real plans for how to fund them.

“There were a lot of ambitious things in there,” said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport), “but I don’t know how the heck anyone can conceive of paying for everything that was laid out.”

Flanagan and Assemb. Andrew Raia (R-Huntington) said Cuomo’s speech focused too much on what the governor believes is wrong in Washington.

“It was what’s to be expected from this governor, who could announce that he’s running for president,” Raia said.

Cuomo said he plans to sue the federal government over the new tax bill, which limits deductions for state and local taxes. He said he believes the changes will hurt New Yorkers and the state’s ability to attract businesses.

Long Island Republicans said they believe Cuomo has no real legal basis for a lawsuit.

But Sen. John Brooks (D-Oyster Bay) said it’s worth a try.

“To at least challenge it in court and maybe get a stay on the effective day of this tax law, that’s a win,” Brooks said.

Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) said it was “absolutely appropriate” for Cuomo to focus on how tax changes will impact New York. “To give a speech without mentioning it is criminal,” Kaminsky said.

While taxes dominated Cuomo’s speech, the governor also mentioned a few Long Island-based projects he believes would help the region.

Upcoming construction on the Long Island Rail Road, “will transform the quality of life on Long Island,” he said.

“In 2018, as part of our $6.6 billion LIRR transformation plan, we will complete the double track on the Ronkonkoma line 16 months ahead of schedule,” Cuomo said. “We will begin construction on the third track along the main line, which carries 40 percent of LIRR riders.”

Cuomo also resurrected a proposal for a tunnel or bridge to connect Long Island to Westchester County and Connecticut. The plan, unveiled in 2015, failed to move forward after the state Transportation Department completed a feasibility study.

Members of both parties said Wednesday the idea sounds fine in theory — but it will be difficult finding a North Shore community with residents willing to live with temporary construction noise and permanent added traffic.

“The biggest problem with getting that are the NIMBYs in an area,” said Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore), invoking an acronym that means “not in my backyard.” He added: “They have vehemently opposed it for decades.”

Republicans and Democrats said Cuomo did a good job rallying lawmakers from both sides to work together during the upcoming legislative session.

“Now the hard work begins,” Kaminsky said. “What are the numbers, what are we going to cut, and what are we going to keep.”

State & Region