It was the most ambitious speech of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s life, in every imaginable way.
Sure, there was the obvious stuff: making New York the jobs capital of the Milky Way galaxy, turning around the 60-year decline of the upstate region, not raising taxes under any circumstances ever, seriously, and making school longer and better.
There was the tough stuff, like raising the minimum wage to $8.75 per hour, so those who toil for that wage can cover 25 percent of the cost of living in this state rather than 22 percent of the cost of living in this state. Also tough: passing a series of laws that actually makes society treat women as the equals of men (we’ve passed a bunch of these that didn’t seem to work), passing a suite of laws that really have an impact on gun violence (in a state that already, by most accounts, has the most restrictive gun laws in the nation) and converting the state from its old-style economy to a spot as a high-tech jobs leader.
This is all good stuff, and comes from a governor who has accomplished a tremendous amount in his first two years: gay marriage, balanced budgets, the property tax cap, ethics reform and a start on improving teacher performance are just a few (actually, most) of his significant accomplishments.
But this year, in a speech that stretched to almost 90 minutes, the greatest ambition Cuomo displayed wasn’t in the substance of his proposals but in the style, flavor and delivery. Often an almost flat speaker in the past, Cuomo’s voice soared and dipped, swooped and swooned. He punched his biggest line, on a woman’s right to choose an abortion, three times, harder with each repetition.
In substance, after two years of pushing mostly conservative-friendly proposals, this was a speech meant to remind democrats of his liberal credentials -- heavy on abortion rights, gun control and education expansion -- where in the past he has emphasized spending caps and tax freezes far more.
If, as it seemed, this was an agenda and a delivery meant to announce Cuomo’s serious emergence on the national stage as a preface to the 2016 presidential election, I’ll give him a B. He went way too long.
He continued for 10 minutes after he hit the crescendo of his speech, leaving people wondering why he was still talking, and about what. He also oversold a few things, referring to the new Tappan Zee as if the bridge, rather than just the selection of a design and contractor, were done, and doing the same with a teacher-performance-evaluation system that is progressing, but quite slowly.
It was a speech much like the state Cuomo runs: plenty of good in it, and plenty to work on.