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The Empire

How a popular governor braces for an unpopular budget

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Part of Cuomo's tools have been direct appeals to lawmakers, lots of food, and, notably, a lack of demonizing the people who got the state into the fiscal mess.

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Cuomo has taken a matter-of-fact tone to describe the drastic maneuvers he's about to unveil, saying it's the result of a "national economic decline, on top of a state that has been spending too much money for too long."

"Those two facts are now compounding and the chickens are coming home to roost," he said in Poughkeepsie earlier this month.

All that spending — those chickens coming home — went set in motion, year in and year out, by the legislators in Albany. But unlike his predecessors, Cuomo isn't steamrolling, scapegoating or even blaming them.

If anything, he's bludgeoning them with charm.

"The New York State legislature is, historically, the best legislature in the nation," he said in his State of the State speech. "The most talented people — those who we are. That's who we are. And that's who we can be again."

Everyone applauded.