Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday planned to take the next step to reviving New York state and moving out of his famous father's shadow.
Less than a month after his 54th birthday, 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. Back then, New York faced historic deficits, partisan gridlock and an unprecedented string of corruption convictions and scandals.
The Democrat, however, quickly gained the national spotlight that his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, enjoyed as a national Democratic icon in the 1980s and 1990s.
Andrew Cuomo's first whirlwind year as governor included landmark legislation such as the legalization of gay marriage, a cap on the growth in property taxes, and a millionaire tax that includes a modest but rare cut in taxes for the middle class. He also made a rare cut in state spending and addressed a $10 billion deficit in a timely budget in the spring, while working closely with the Senate's Republican majority.
His State of the State speech Wednesday before more than 2,000 people in Albany, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has been kept tightly under wraps. He has tried to downplay expectations for 2012, saying he plans to concentrate on the mundane but critical duty of making government agencies run more efficiently and cheaply.
Although he's said he surprised himself by already accomplishing most of his four-year legislative agenda, some major items in Cuomo's campaign agenda remain. They include creating a form of voluntary public financing of campaigns that good-government groups such as Citizen Action have said are critical to reforming state government and ending its notorious "pay-to-play" culture.
But Cuomo will also have to carry through on some of his big ideas from 2011. Among them is the latest plan to create jobs in his rust belt state, a task that has defied governors since his father was in office. Cuomo's plan already in the works uses competitive grants awarded to regions with the best, most realistic plans for job growth.
"He will likely remind listeners of the extraordinary accomplishments of 2011 and talk about how he wants to continue that momentum in 2012," said Steven Greenberg of the Siena College poll.
"I think the emphasis is going to continue to be on jobs and rebuilding New York's struggling economy," Greenberg said. "He will also likely talk about his continued efforts to want to make state government more effective, efficient and responsive to people, with an emphasis on results and outcomes."
Internally, the second State of the State is seen as critical.
"It's the kickoff of the session and the inside-the-beltway crowd puts a huge amount of emphasis on the speech," said Robert Bellafiore, who was the top staffer when former Gov. George Pataki gave his second State of the State speech after a big first year.
"This governor has built his administration on very powerful themes that resonate with New Yorkers and his governmental action has only strengthened that," Bellafiore said. "What he needs to do now in sort of the second quarter of this game is build on those and advance them, both for the current circumstances and his overall vision."
Cuomo has also benefited from timing. The Democrat, already mentioned by some as a potential 2016 candidate for president, is building a reputation for action just as Washington is building one for inaction.
"If you do a good job as governor, anything can happen," said political strategist Hank Sheinkopf, who worked in the Clinton White House that included Cuomo as housing secretary. "Any New York governor or senator is potential presidential timbre ... and everyone is paying attention to what Andrew Cuomo does because Andrew Cuomo is a national star."