Niagara Gazette — ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying to counter reactions that the agenda he set for 2013 in his State of the State speech last week was a hard left turn, or an early exit to pursue a 2016 presidential campaign.
He called for the strictest gun control measures in the country, raising the minimum wage, decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, a $1 billion bank for environmentally friendly energy development, another $1 billion fund for affordable housing, expansion of abortion rights and public financing of campaigns among the 300 pages of proposals big and small, likely and improbable.
The speech was praised as groundbreaking and landmark by progressives who fretted for two years that they were fooled by the son of liberal icon Mario Cuomo. Andrew Cuomo, they thought, had fashioned himself a new kind of Democrat focused on holding the line on spending and taxes.
"We are a community based on progressive principles," Cuomo said in Wednesday's often fiery speech. "We must remain that progressive capital of the nation."
Cuomo, who has remained highly popular among Republicans and independents critical to any presidential run, denied a liberal lean.
"I don't see it," Cuomo said the day after the speech. "Last year, they wrote I made a right turn. This year, they wrote I made a left turn. I think I've been going straight all along. And I think we've been remarkably consistent here."
That, he said, is being "socially progressive and fiscally responsible."
Not everybody agreed.
"New York already has the worst business climate in the nation and increasing the minimum wage at this time would only make it more toxic," said Brian Sampson, executive director of the Unshackle Upstate business group, which this fall helped beat back a 45 percent increase in Thruway tolls for truckers.
In his speech, Cuomo painted a far different view of the economy after two years in office, noting he's capped property tax growth and established a business-friendly public image.