Albany, Jan 4 — Yesterday NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo announced multiple programs with a common theme: getting New Yorkers back to work. Cuomo’s second State of the State Address highlighted numerous accomplishments in his first year as governor and set new goals for rebuilding infrastructure, developing energy alternatives and reforming public education.
2011 was a historic year for government in New York. Although it’s still not unusual to see the word “dysfunctional government” next to “Albany,” the leaders of the state senate and assembly praised the governor before the governor’s address. Cuomo kicked off his address by ticking off some of New York’s 2011 accomplishments including closing a $10 billion deficit, implementing a two percent tax cap, middle class tax reform, eliminating the MTA payroll tax for most small businesses, ethics reform and passing a Gay Marriage bill in New York State.
“In New York, we may have big problems, but we confront them with big solutions,” said Cuomo. His address proposed multiple new initiatives to spur economic growth in the state.
- The Tappan Zee Bridge: The TZB 2 project is one of 100 bridges and 2,000 miles of roads included in the new The New York Works Fund and Task Force program. Cuomo says the initiative will plan, coordinate, leverage, and accelerate capital investment and put thousands of New Yorkers to work leveraging state investment by a multiple of 20-to-1. “We will finally build a new the Tappan Zee Bridge ‘€” because 15 years of planning is too long,” said Cuomo. The fund hopes to use private investment to upgrade 90 municipal water systems, improve 48 state parks and historic sites and repair 114 flood control projects and dams.
- Power To The People: Cuomo says New York has energy resources which are going to waste because utilities can’t easily move power around the state. A private sector funded $2 billion “energy highway” will make it easier to transport energy from upstate and western New York to downstate users. This initiative his implications for the future of the Indian Point nuclear facility, which currently supplies between 18 and 30 percent of downstate energy needs. Cuomo is on record as opposing the renewal of Indian Point.
Hoping to quadruple annual solar power development by 2013, Cuomo announced “NY-Sun,” a new program to attract large, commercial-sized solar projects to the state. The governor will expand solar power rebate programs for residential and commercial small-to-medium systems and incentivize consumers to retrofit their homes with energy efficient upgrades beginning in January 2012. He’s also going to do the same for state facilities by accelerating energy-saving improvements in NYS buildings. Cuomo says the plan will save millions, create thousands of high skilled jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8.1 million metric tons.
- Convention Center in Yonkers; demolish Jacob Javits Convention Center to build a new West Side neighborhood: “The Jacob Javits Convention Center on Manhattan’s West Side is obsolete and not large enough to be a top tier competitor in today’s marketplace,” said Cuomo. His plan? Build the largest convention center in the U.S. at the current Aqueduct Raceway site in Yonkers. That would free up the current Javits Convention Center in NYC to become a new West Side neighborhood. “We estimate over $2 billion in private sector development in creating a new 21st century neighborhood. We will follow the highly successful Battery Park City model, which has resulted in housing, hotels, museums, and over 10 million square feet of Class A office space,” Cuomo said.
- Gambling on Gambling: Cuomo estimates there’s $1 billion worth of economic activity that NYS misses because gambling is illegal outside of the Native American five casinos in New York. “It’s not a question of whether we should have gaming in New York ‘€” the fact is we already do,” he said. “We don’t fully realize it, regulate it, or capitalize on it, but we have gaming.” Cuomo proposed amending the NYS Constitution to permit gambling.
- Mandate Relief: “By next year, pension costs for schools and state and local governments will have increased 100 percent since 2009,” said Cuomo. “We need a government that performs better and costs less.” Cuomo says a joint legislative and executive branch task force to study the issue will begin this month and will issue a package of recommendations by the end of the session. “We need a robust public discussion on the pros and cons of the mandates [with] a yea or nay vote this year.”
- Educational reform: Noting that school superintendents, principals, teachers, maintenance staff, bus drivers and school boards have lobbyists, Cuomo said students need someone to advocate for their interests, too. “Consider me the lobbyist for the students. I will wage a campaign to put students first, and to remind us that the purpose of public education is to help children grow, not to grow the public education bureaucracy.” Cuomo says he will focus on improving teacher accountability and student achievement. “The legislation enacted in 2010 to qualify for Race to the Top didn’t work,” he said. “We need a meaningful teacher evaluation system.” The governor also promised to hold schools accountable for the results they achieve and the dollars they spend.
- Create a NYS Health Care Exchange: Financed 100% by the federal government, the New York State Health Insurance Exchange can offer health insurance to the 16% (2.7 million people) in New York who are uninsured. “More than one million New Yorkers will gain health coverage and individuals who currently buy their coverage directly will see their cost drop by 66 percent,” Cuomo said. The governor encouraged the legislature to pass legislation required to let NYS take a $1.7 billion offset offered by the federal program.
The governor ended his speech saying that what his administration accomplished in 2011 demonstrates what can be done if the executive and legislative branches work together.
“By all accounts, last year was a tremendous success. There are many reasons why, including one simple one: We changed our attitude. We had a constructive impatience for government dysfunction and a disregard for the political extremists on the left and the right, we believed in the people, and we had a mutual respect, both institutional and personal.
“By the end of the year, we were not first Democrats and Republicans, we were first New Yorkers and we acted that way. We put the politics aside and put the people first. And it worked. And we worked. We delivered for the people ‘€” and we made this state a better state and I was honored to be a part of it with you.
“Cynics will say we can’t do it again, that we can’t do any better. Well, cynics don’t know us, and they don’t know New York.
“Today, I am telling you this: we are going to reach even higher.”
- Governor Cuomo Outlines Plan to Continue Building a New New York by Growing the Economy, Cuomo’s 2012 State of the State press release
- Cuomo’s 2012 State of the State, transcript
- Indian Point Hearings: Risk vs Power, 6/2/2011