New York State-of-the-State

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Entering his 12th year as New York governor, Mario Cuomo (D) on Wednesday outlined a plan to liberate citizens from fear of crime and businesses from fees and taxes.

In a state-of-the-state message opening an election year, he urged New Yorkers to help revitalize the economy. ``The recession still hurts,'' he said. ``But we are clearly on our way back.''

Following a year that saw a commuter shooting spree and the World Trade Center bombing, Governor Cuomo promoted steps to fight ``one of the most grotesque explosions of criminal violence in our lifetime.'' He called for restrictions on assault weapons, raising the legal age to own a handgun to 18, and requiring a safety course before anyone can get a gun license.

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Cuomo proposed a ``three strikes and you're in'' law requiring life in prison without parole for three-time violent felons. He wants special police details to crack down on illegal guns and dealers in cities and attack upstate drug dens. He called for state money to help gun-amnesty programs.

Even education initiatives were affected by crime: He wants state reimbursement for schools that buy metal detectors.

Cuomo said New York must seek out job-creating firms. He called for cutting the state's corporate-tax surcharge and phasing out a hotel tax. ``If you're prepared to create jobs for our people, we'll do everything we can to make it worth your while,'' he said.

Cuomo said developers should be offered a waiver on a state real estate tax if they begin projects by the end of 1995. He also said small businesses should get a vendor allowance for collecting state sales taxes.

The agenda sounded familiar to some of Cuomo's political opponents. ``He's trying to run like a Republican,'' said Herb London, a college professor seeking the Republican and Conservative Party nominations to run for governor.

State Senate Majority Leader Ralph Marino agreed that it appeared Cuomo had embraced the Senate GOP's agenda. ``I congratulate the governor for his good sense to acknowledge that this state needs a change in direction.''

Cuomo also called for welfare reform emphasizing jobs. He proposed an earned-income tax credit for working poor families. He proposed expanding a program that requires fingerprinting for welfare recipients.

In education, Cuomo asked for state funding to encourage longer school days and years.

He wants to test ``21st-century schools'' that are freed from most state mandates and set up ``Excelsior Schools'' for gifted high-school juniors and seniors.

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