(Adds $2 bln water infrastructure proposal)
By Hilary Russ
NEW YORK Jan 9 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
positioned his state on Monday as the "progressive capital of
the nation" and proposed policies to drive a middle-class
In a state of the state speech in New York City that seemed
aimed at Republican President-elect Donald Trump without naming
him directly, the Democratic governor said that welcoming
immigrants, providing for the poor and protecting religious
freedom were "all being questioned, blamed and attacked."
As part of his progressive agenda, Cuomo said he wanted to
create a new hate crime task force within the State Police. He
called hate speech "disgusting," "ignorant" and "anti-American."
Trump has drawn criticism for disparaging remarks about
women and immigrants, as well as his promise to build a wall
along the southern border with Mexico.
The call to arms by Cuomo, seen as a potential presidential
candidate in 2020, "sets him up to be the obvious antidote to
Donald Trump, more than anyone else, because this is Trump's
home state," said longtime Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf.
"Underneath it all, he's really saying, 'Hello, Donald
Trump, here I am, and by the way, Democrats, I'm a national
leader and I'm speaking to you,'" Sheinkopf said.
Cuomo said he aimed to help struggling middle-class New
Yorkers with a bigger-than-ever state budget allocation for
education, without giving a specific amount; more economic
development investments; and a doubling of the child care tax
The speech in Manhattan, the first of six planned in a State
of the State tour across New York, was given at 1 World Trade
Center in the heart of the rebuilt Financial District destroyed
in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. This year he is eschewing his
usual address to the legislature at the state capitol in Albany.
Cuomo has released several proposals in recent days,
including a renovation of the John F. Kennedy International
Airport, the closing of the Indian Point nuclear
power plant north of New York City by 2021, banning
bad actors from the financial services industry and free college
tuition for 1 million families.
He said New York state is "stronger than it has been in
decades" and that he would push ahead with major infrastructure
projects, try to lure businesses to New York from overseas and
invest $650 million in life sciences research.
Later in the day, Cuomo also said he would seek a total of
$2 billion of investments, spread over multiple years, for
upgrades to drinking and wastewater systems and for source water
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Republican, said in
a statement that he hoped Cuomo would work with lawmakers on tax
reform for middle-class families but that the last thing they
needed were "flashy press releases."
(Reporting by Hilary Russ; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Dan