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Cuomo: Last year they wrote Id made a right turn, this year they wrote Id made a left turn. I think Ive been going straight all along.

Cuomo denies he's tacking left

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's State of the State message was widely perceived as a signal of a leftward turn, with a priority list that include gun control, abortion rights, and raising the minimum wage.

But the governor says his ideology hasn't changed a bit.

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Reported by

Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

Governor Cuomo’s State of the State message included dozens of proposals, but he was the most impassioned about tightening the ban on assault weapons, where he shouted  “end the madness now” . He also asserted a woman’s right to choose abortion as part of a Women’s Equality Act, saying, three times, “because it’s her body, it’s her choice”. Cuomo focused on raising the state’s minimum wage to $8.75 an hour, saying the current rate of $7.25 “does not add up”.


The governor also wants public financing of election campaigns, and decriminalization of public possession of small amounts of marijuana, as a reform to New York City’s Stop and Frisk policy. He says he believes that “climate change is real”, and he left out of his speech a topic loathed by environmentalists, hydro fracking.


Cuomo won praise from Mike Kink, with the progressive group Strong Economy for All, who has more often been a critic during the governor’s first two years in office.


“It’s real leadership,” Kink said. “It would put New York near the top of the nation in terms of minimum wage.”


State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long, who attended the speech, disagrees with many of the governor’s proposals. Long says he thinks the speech was a set up for a Presidential run in 2016, something Cuomo in the past has consistently denied.


“He’s gone home to his liberal roots, his philosophical roots,” said Long. “I think he kicked off his campaign to energize his liberal base across the country.”


Long says Cuomo is “aiming way past New York”.


“He’s aiming right at Washington,” he said.


Cuomo’s 2013 priorities are a contrast to his first two years in office, where he pushed for slashing $10 billion dollars from the state budget, and a cap on the growth in property taxes. Cuomo also feuded bitterly with state worker unions, threatening over 3000 lay offs during a contract dispute, and railed against the teachers’ union.


News articles and editorials Thursday proclaimed that Cuomo has made a left turn. But the governor, when asked about that characterization, says he hasn’t changed. .


“Last year they wrote I’d made a right turn, this year they wrote I’d made a left turn,” Cuomo said. “I think I’ve been going straight all along.”


Cuomo says during his first year in office, 2011, while he advocated for budget cuts and tax caps, he also successfully championed gay marriage.


“I am socially progressive and fiscally responsible,” said Cuomo. “I believe that’s where most people in this state are.”


Opinion polls on New York voter attitudes seem to back up the governor’s claims.


Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was the first to advocate for the minimum wage increase at last year’s State of the State gathering, agrees. Silver points out that the address also included a pledge not to hike taxes, and reduced costs for businesses for workers comp and unemployment insurance.


“He’s not looking for labels, I think he’s calling things as he sees them,” said Silver.


The governor has yet to release his new budget proposal. With the state facing at least a $1 billion dollar deficit, and unknown costs from Superstorm Sandy, the governor may then be perceived as tacking back to the right.


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