New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stakes out progressive agenda
New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) gives the State of the State address on Jan. 8, 2014 in Albany, New York [AFP]

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo positioned his state on Monday as the "progressive capital of the nation" and proposed policies to drive a middle-class economic recovery.

Cuomo said in a state of the state speech that welcoming immigrants, providing for the poor and protecting religious freedom were "all being questioned, blamed and attacked."

As part of his progressive agenda the Democrat said he wanted to create a new hate crime task force in the State Police and he called hate speech "disgusting" "ignorant" and "anti-American."

Cuomo, widely seen as a potential presidential candidate, said he aimed to help struggling middle-class New Yorkers with a bigger state allocation to education than ever, more economic development investments and a doubling of the child care tax credit.

The speech in Manhattan, the first of six planned in a State of the State tour across New York, was given at 1 World Trade Center in the heart of the rebuilt financial district destroyed in the September 11, 2001 attacks. This year he is eschewing his usual address to the legislature at the state capitol in Albany.

Cuomo has released proposals in recent days, including a renovation of the John F. Kennedy International Airport, the closing of Indian Point nuclear facility, banning bad actors from the financial services industry and free college tuition for 1 million families.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Republican, said in a statement that he hoped Cuomo would work with lawmakers on tax reform for middle class families but that the last thing they needed were "flashy press releases."

(Reporting By Hilary Russ; Editing by Daniel Bases and Andrew Hay)