By Edward Krudy
ALBANY, N.Y. (Reuters) - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday presented a $145.3 billion budget that keeps operating funds growth at 1.7 percent for a sixth year, while promising an infrastructure development plan that he said will be the largest in the state's history.
Cuomo, a Democrat, outlined his budget in his sixth annual state of the state address in New York's capital, Albany. It was a wide-ranging speech designed to portray Cuomo as a governor of big ideas, touching on topics including the minimum wage, prison reform, counter terrorism and paid maternity leave.
Cuomo has consistently presented himself as a responsible steward of the state's finances, capping spending growth at 2 percent or under. When he took office in 2011 he inherited a budget deficit of $10 billion and a state known for fiscal dysfunction.
He has tied his governorship to big infrastructure projects and has spent the new year touring the state, promising a program to equip New York for the next 100 years. Wednesday's speech was no exception. Cuomo, who has been cited as a possible presidential candidate beyond 2016, presented himself as an alternative to the gridlock in Washington D.C.
"This nation has real problems that we haven't seen before and with the gridlock in Washington I am not going to rely on them to solve them," Cuomo told a packed convention center in the address that lasted for over an hour and half.
Cuomo's infrastructure plans include rebuilding New York City's Pennsylvania Station for $3 billion, expanding rail services to Long Island by adding a third track for $1 billion and a $1 billion extension to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.
He has also promised $22 billion for upstate transport over the next five years. The funds, which will primarily go to repairing roads and bridges, are aimed at creating parity between upstate and downstate spending on transport, Cuomo said.
Cuomo also tried to draw a line under a difficult year for Albany after speakers of the Assembly and Senate were convicted on corruption charges. He proposed measure to close a loop hole allowing some companies to skirt limits on political donations.
A cloud of suspicion was removed from Cuomo this week after the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan said there was "insufficient" evidence to prove any crimes occurred when the governor prematurely disbanded an anti-corruption panel.
(Reporting by Edward Krudy; Editing by Frances Kerry, Alistair Bell and Meredith Mazzilli)