- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 4, 2012

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday outlined what he hopes are the next steps to reviving New York state and moving out of his famous father’s shadow.

He set an aggressive, if less dramatic, agenda for his second year after a first year widely praised as both fiscally conservative and progressive in breaking years of political gridlock to legalize gay marriage. It includes plans for the world’s largest convention center in New York City and a $1 billion jobs initiative for the long distressed city of Buffalo.

“One year ago, we were divided as a state,” he said. “Upstate and downstate, millionaires and the middle class, gay and straight, Democrats and Republicans.

“Our state had a fiscal deficit,” he said, but the “more pronounced problem was a trust deficit, a performance deficit, and an integrity deficit … our people had problems, and our government did not have the capacity or the credibility to help.”

Back then, he said, New York faced historic deficits, partisan gridlock and an unprecedented string of corruption convictions and scandals. Less than a month after his 54th birthday, Mr. Cuomo’s second State of the State speech comes as he enjoys the same record-high approval ratings that rushed him into office in 2010.

“2011 will go down in the history books as an extraordinary success,” Mr. Cuomo said to cheers. “We restored New York’s reputation as the progressive capital of the nation.”

As with his father, Gov. Mario Cuomo, Andrew Cuomo’s every major speech is parsed nationwide by those handicapping future presidential runs.

“He was absolutely presidential,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a national political adviser who worked in the Clinton White House, where Mr. Cuomo served as housing secretary. “Few governors in the country have plotted such an aggressive course. … It was a perfect speech because it was populist, progressive, patriotic, pomp and just plain guts.”

The speech titled “Building a New New York With You” includes plans for a $4 billion convention center and hotel complex at the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens to be built by a private developer; a new commission to force “an overhaul” of public education, including teacher evaluations; a jobs program including a massive road and bridge effort; $1 billion in incentives to lure jobs to Buffalo; and voluntary public financing of political campaigns.

“Let’s build the largest convention center in the nation, period,” Mr. Cuomo said. “We’ll go from No. 12 to No. 1 because that’s where we deserve to be, the No. 1 state in the nation.”

Political scientist Doug Muzzio of Baruch College said the speech had a “lot of well-deserved self-shoulder patting,” but was light on specifics on how to tackle his new goals.

“If he succeeds with even half of his ‘ambitious agenda,’ his second semester will be a remarkable success,” he said.

Legislative leaders supported Mr. Cuomo, a traditional reaction for the State of the State address while the cameras are on, even in this election year. But Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said one of his top priorities will be to raise the minimum wage, stuck at $7.25 an hour for years. Advocates including the Hunger Action Network and members of Occupy Albany favor a raise to at least $10 an hour, which could rile Mr. Cuomo’s biggest campaign donors in business.

• AP Writer Michael Virtanen contributed to this report.

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