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State of State redux set in Jamestown ; Cuomo to step up outreach to persuade voters to help move Legislature on critical issues

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will begin what he says will be an ongoing effort to engage the electorate in moving the State Legislature to his side with a rerun of his State of the State message Thursday in Jamestown.

"I don't subscribe to the theory that I go through the Legislature to the people. I represent the people. The people voted for me directly. I want a direct relationship," Cuomo said.

The governor said he will make stops in a half-dozen communities in the weeks ahead after his Jamestown speech on a tour designed to hit communities that "feel the most disconnected" from Albany.

The Jamestown speech will be delivered in the Robert H. Jackson Center, named for the Supreme Court justice and chief prosecutor of Nazi leaders at the Nuremberg trials. State legislators from the area are being invited, Cuomo said.

After a gubernatorial campaign that included many attacks on the Legislature and the ways of state government, Cuomo is trying to engage lawmakers in plans for everything from limiting local property tax increases to new ethics laws for state officials. In a few weeks, he will release his proposed budget and his ideas for closing a $10 billion deficit.

Cuomo met Monday with the majority party leaders of the Senate and Assembly, followed by a session with minority leaders Tuesday. Next week, he said he will meet with rank-and-file legislators, including smaller group sessions with the Democrats in the Assembly -- a group many Cuomo supporters see as among his biggest obstacles in Albany.

"I want to have small enough groups so that we can actually talk," Cuomo said in an interview.

Previous governors have tried to take their messages on the road. George E. Pataki held "Capitol for a Day" events in such places as Batavia, while Eliot L. Spitzer launched a short-lived Upstate State of the State address.

But Cuomo's strategy differs from one Spitzer approach: It seeks a dialogue with voters before the real fights start in Albany. In his early days in office, Spitzer, for instance, began a living-room style tour in legislators' districts in an attempt to bloody up rank-and-file legislators who did not side with him.

Cuomo said he will be as "collegial" with the Legislature as any governor but wants to start a "second track" of direct talks with residents.

"You can do both. You can respect the Legislature, and you can build a stronger connection with the people," he said.

"I hope to communicate with the people of the state so they actually understand the issues we're dealing with and build support for the solutions. I believe politicians will follow the people, but the people have to be heard, and before the people can be heard, they have to be informed," he added.

The governor said he is targeting smaller areas or communities that receive little attention from state leaders. "They feel far away. They are geographically, and they feel that they are," he said of communities like Jamestown.

Asked if he was beginning the tour because he already senses trouble with the Legislature, Cuomo said, "I've been doing this since Day One in the campaign. If you're going to change Albany, it's because the people will force and demand change."

Before Cuomo took office, his supporters speculated that he might be able to reach a deal within the first couple of weeks on a major issue, such as a limit on property tax increases. But in recent days, some lawmakers have begun trying to link the tax limit to a New York City rent control measure, and no deals have been struck on any issues of substance.

"Do I know at this point whether or not there'll be early or quick agreements? I don't know," Cuomo said. "I'm in no rush."

e-mail: tprecious@buffnews.com

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