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Politics and Government

Cuomo's fourth State of the State focuses on taxes, economics

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered his State of the State address in Albany Wednesday

Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered something for everyone in his fourth State of the State message, as he faces a re-election year. He outlined programs ranging from property tax cuts to an education bond act, to allowing medical marijuana.

Cuomo began his speech focusing on tax cuts and job creation. He highlighted a plan announced earlier in the week to cut the corporate tax rate, and property taxes , in a scheme that would hinge on local governments freezing spending, and consolidating.

“The highest property tax in the country is in Westchester County,” said Cuomo.

Cuomo is running for re-election this year and he faces a possible challenge from Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino.

Cuomo says portions of upstate New York also have the highest in the nation property taxes, when compared to the value of homes there.

“Why our are property taxes so high?” Cuomo asked. “Because we have too many local governments and we’ve had them for too long.”

The governor sounded more subdued than in 2013 when he outlined an ambitious progressive agenda. He reiterated some of those same ideas that he failed to achieve last year, including a Women’s Equality Act but he did not mention in his speech an abortion provision that the act contains. And he offered a plea to the legislature to approve an ethics reform package that died in last year’s session, saying it’s in everyone’s interest to regain the public trust.

“The more trust we have form the public the more we can do,” Cuomo said. “It’s like fuel for a rocket.”

The governor only briefly referenced a proposal he championed last year to enact public campaign financing.

Republicans who control the state Senate in a power sharing agreement opposed those proposals last year, and Senate GOP leader sees the downplaying of them this year as a good sign.

“He’s good moderate Republican,” Skelos joked.

Skelos says he looks forward to a “bipartisan” working relationship between the governor and the legislature this year.

Cuomo outlined his plan, previously announced, to permit access to medical marijuana in 20 hospitals across the state. He also advocates raising the age that juvenile offenders can be treated as adults in the state prison system. And he proposed further crackdowns on drunk drivers and teenagers who text while driving.

The governor also proposed a $2 billion education bond act. And Cuomo says he shares the desire of the new mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, to provide universal pre-kindergarten.

“It’s time for New York state to have universal full day pre-k statewide,” Cuomo said, to applause.

But Cuomo did not offer details of how to pay for it. Mayor deBlasio wants to raise taxes on the wealthy to fund pre-K. Cuomo has said he’s not interested in raising taxes on the rich at this time, and has suggested that perhaps it could be financed through the state’s general fund.

Mayor de Blasio, who attended the speech, says he does not see a conflict with Cuomo on the issue.

“The state has a vision for the state and I respect that vision,” deBlasio said. “We have a vision for our own  city and we simply want an acknowledgement of that so that we can move forward.”

De Blasio is likely to seek what’s known as a home rule message to allow him to raise New York City’s income tax. Assembly Democrats are likely to support his in that effort, Senate Leader Skelos says he has not ruled it out.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver suggests that pre-kindergarten could in part be paid for with the bond act that the governor is proposing.

“I assume some of that money would be used for facilities to house pre-k,” Silver said.

But the speaker says he looks forward to seeing the details of pre-k funding and other programs in the governor’s budget proposal, due out on Jan. 21.

Cuomo also focused on upstate, saying he wants to bring global attention to his tax-free zones on college campuses. He says he plans to hold another round of yogurt and beer and wine summits, as well as a new summit aimed at bringing upstate farmers together with downstate customers.