Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivered his 2018 State of the State Address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany. The Governor’s far-reaching 2018 agenda proposes to deliver on the promise of progressive government by advancing a slate of critical social and economic policies which Cuomo said would improve the lives of New Yorkers. The bold agenda, articulated with specifics rather than rhetorical flourishes, includes a full package of legislative reforms, robust investments in infrastructure, the environment and renewable energy, and targeted actions – from a comprehensive women’s rights agenda to a first-in-the-nation plan to fight the federal tax assault to nation-leading criminal justice reforms – that will increase opportunity for New Yorkers and ensure the Empire State continues to serve as a beacon of equality, unity and fairness for the nation.
However, Cuomo warned of the challenges the state faces in realizing these policies because of a $4 billion shortfall in the budget, combined with an additional $2 billion loss in federal aid, and on top of that, the Republican tax plan which severely curtails the deductibility of state and local taxes (SALT), effectively cutting New Yorkers’ incomes by a further 20-25%, likely putting downward pressure on housing costs, and discouraging businesses from locating here – in effect, overturning the progress the Governor has made in lowering taxes and promoting economic development and business in the state. Indeed, the state has seen a record 1 million new jobs in the past six years, the highest level of jobs. He challenged federal actions – both threatening legal challenge to the double-taxation on state and local taxes, and threatening law suit against the Environmental Protection Agency should it pronounce the clean-up of the Hudson River by General Electric to be complete.
Highlights of the Governor’s 2018 Agenda include:
- Keeping New York Economically Competitive
- Upholding the New York Promise
- Expanding Educational Opportunity for All
- Continuing Economic Opportunity and Growth Under NY Works
- Providing A Cleaner, Greener and Healthier New York: The Wellness Agenda
- Leading the Fight Against Climate Change
- Advancing the Democracy Agenda
- Building a Stronger, Safer New York
AUDIO of Governor Cuomo’s remarks is available here.
Here is a highlighted transcript of the Governor’s remarks: — Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
Thank you very, very much. Welcome to Albany. Happy New Year to all. It may be a great one for all of us. First, to the Reverend and the Rabbi, who I thought they were just extraordinary in their blessings and in their invocation, let’s give them a round of applause.
Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge my partners in government, we start with Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, let’s give her a round of applause. New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. Speaker Carl Heastie. Leader Klein. Leader Stewart Cousins. Leader Kolb. We have with us today our Court of Appeals judges and Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, let’s give them a round of applause. It’s not that they are unhappy, the judges, it’s just by protocol they don’t applaud for anything. I didn’t realize that the first couple of years, but now I got it. Let’s give them another round of applause for not applauding for anything.
My friends, looking back, 2017 was a tough year by any measure, but New Yorkers once again rose to the occasion. We had frightening incidents of terrorism in New York City. As Mayor Bill de Blasio well knows. But we have the best police and first responders in the country and some of them are here today. Let’s give them a round of applause. Let’s see you stand please.
We also had anti-Semitic threats to Jewish Community Centers across the state. The state stood with them, we were supportive, but the operators were heroic and they refused to yield to intimidation. And they’re here with us today. Let them know that we stand with them in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters around the state and we applaud their heroism. Please stand.
Mother Nature has tested us it seems time and time and time again. 2017, we saw flooding on Lake Ontario like we had never seen before. We saw flooding along the St. Lawrence River, we saw it in the Mohawk Valley, we had wind storms in Rochester, and we had frigid temperatures all across the state. Once again, our state employees were there for us, and we have some of them here today – the Department of Transportation, Office of General Services, the Thruway Authority and our first responders. Let’s give them a round of applause and thank them.
They’re forecasting another possible snowstorm on Thursday on Long Island, which will once again see County Executive Bellone and now our new County Executive Laura Curran out there. And I can promise you County Executive, all of the glamour of the inauguration will be gone at the first snowstorm. My advice, gloves and boots, gloves and boots. Let’s give the new County Executive a round of applause.
And my friends, Mother Nature saved her worst fury not for New York, but for Puerto Rico. I’m proud of the help that New Yorkers offered to the people of Puerto Rico. It was bipartisan, it was all across the state of New York. We asked for donations, the outpouring was incredible. Tons of materials were donated from New Yorkers. We asked for volunteers and they came in every possible way. We had the National Guard, we had health care workers from 1199, from the Greater New York Hospital Association, from the New York State Nurses Association. We had utility workers from all across the state. I went down on one visit – 500 utility workers. More utility workers from New York than from any other place, literally getting the power back on. We had the New York Power Authority that did a great job, UNICEF did a great job, they all came together, but we want the people of Puerto Rico to know, who are still suffering today, 60 percent still without power today. We want the people of Puerto Rico to know that New York will stand by them through their recovery every step along this journey. We are their friends. We are their brothers and sisters. Somos uno, somos uno, somos uno – we will be there for Puerto Rico.
Today marks the eight time that I’ve had the opportunity to discuss the State of the State. Serving as your Governor has been the privilege of my life. Especially as I have had the good fortune to serve with legislatures who have the political will and the talent to tackle the great issues – and we have. The history books will show that thanks to the actions of the officials assembled here today, our state has made unprecedented progress. Our economy is stronger today and we are once again the nation’s beacon for social progress. As Governor Al Smith used to say, “let’s look at the record.” Well the record says that crime is down statewide, we have a cleaner environment, we have a fairer criminal justice system, we have more high school graduates who are attending colleges, we have preserved more land than ever before, enacted a more progressive tax code, launched the most ambitious building program in the country. We have also made historic investments in education, health care and economic development. Upstate New York is no longer treated as the forgotten stepchild of Albany, the way it was for so many years. And my friends, state government is back. It is reengaged as a vital partner in progress in every region of the state of New York. And, they got ahead of me – we ended the drought in Buffalo, returning to the playoffs for the first time since 1999, “Go Bills! Go Bills! Go Bills!”
We have honored the tax payer and achieved historic fiscal discipline. For the first time in 50 years, thanks to the Assembly and the Senate, we passed seven timely, responsible budgets. Just think about that. With our 2 percent fiscal discipline, we actually did more with less and it’s working. Every New Yorker’s tax rate is lower today than when I took office. We have the highest credit rating in 40 years, unemployment is down from 8.3 percent to 4.7 percent and down in every single region of the state of New York. Because my friends the greatest success is shared success, and today, New York State has 8.1 million private sector jobs – the highest number of jobs in history of the state of New York, period.
In fact, our record is even better. Listen to this: you will be pleased and proud to know that we have created more jobs than any administration in 75 years. Look at this chart from the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics – we created 1 million new jobs in 6 plus years. Since Governor Dewey was elected in 1942, no state administration has created more jobs – or a higher percentage of jobs or created jobs faster.
Congratulations. That is your economic record and that is truly a record to be proud of.
Now, you’ll notice on the chart that Governor Mario Cuomo’s numbers are redacted. There is no constitutional or legal or regulatory reason that would justify that redaction. However, I did that for a couple of reasons: First, because my mother is here, and if I ever compared myself to my father and said I had a better set of numbers, I could never go home again. It would be that simple. You don’t know my mother. It would be no meatballs for Andrew. That would be it. God forbid Chris became the favorite son, that would really be terrible. Even I don’t think she could go that far. Second, because if I compared myself with my father, you would see a lightning bolt strike me dead where I am. And also I didn’t include his numbers because in my opinion there is no comparison of any Governor to Governor Mario Matthew Cuomo.
Besides all of these fiscal accomplishments and more jobs than ever before, we have also accomplished something else. We have vindicated the promise of progressive government. Because progressive government requires citizen confidence and management competence. Progressive leaders must be dreamers and doers; visionaries and achievers. We followed FDR’s progressive philosophy. Real change for real people in real time.
My father’s philosophy: he called himself a “pragmatic progressive” – restoring confidence in government by actually delivering practical accomplishments: people need food, people need housing, people need education, people need justice – they don’t need theoretical progressive politics, they need practical politics, actual politics, that makes a difference in their lives because they’re suffering today and they need life made better for them.
And that my friends, is what we have done – marriage equality, paid family leave, $15 minimum wage, free college tuition, gun safety, the climate coalition, and MWBE. No other state has done what we have done – we are once again the nation’s vanguard for social progress and you should feel good and proud about that accomplishment.
My friends, you should feel confident in our ability as a government to do what many believe can’t be done. Because you have done it over and over and over again. And we have been told over and over again, we can’t do it, it’s too hard. But we did it. And we will need that confidence, because 2018 may be the toughest year New York has faced in modern history. And the job you’re going to have to do may be the job the hardest job done by any legislative body to sit in modern political history. We have unprecedented challenges ahead on every level. And with these challenges at this moment, requires stark candor and bold action. We are facing a three front war.
First, we have the old challenges of discrimination and sexism that have plagued society for years but have recently been exposed for their prevalence and virulence. Society has rightly expressed its outrage. But outrage is not enough. Enlightened government must seize the moment to attack these social diseases that are long institutionalized and culturalized and end them once and for all. Women and minorities still face abuse and prejudice. We must acknowledge it, we must stamp it out, and we must stamp it out here and now.
Second, we face new challenges threatening our safety and quality of life: terrorism, climate change, environmental threats including to our drinking water, and the growing opioid epidemic, a scourge across our state, that claimed more than 3,000 lives just last year.
And lastly, we have federal and economic challenges never experienced before. They threaten the essence of our economy. Short term: a $4 billion deficit and $2 billion in cuts in federal aid. Even more challenging – long term – our federal government has hurt our state’s economic position: both nationally and internationally by taxing our state and local taxes, they made us less competitive and they are helping other states at our expense. They are continuing their divisive politics and evolving into even more divisive governing.
Just think about it, while we here in this state together have been working on economic and social progress, our federal government is working to roll back so much of what we have done.
They’re trying to roll back New York’s position as an economic leader. They’re trying to roll back a woman’s right to choose. They’re trying to roll back environmental protection. They’re trying to roll back healthcare for the poor, to roll back access to college loans, to roll back LGBTQ rights, to roll back labor’s right to organize, to roll back our historic tax cuts that we have done over these past seven years and with DACA, to roll back an immigrant child’s opportunity to be an American. We cannot, we must not let those things happen in the great State of New York.
Thank you. Let us start our agenda by addressing the first challenge first. The old, ugly, persistent problems of sexism, racism and homelessness. The most important element of New York’s social process agenda is equality. It is guaranteed by the constitution and our belief in human rights. Our country is finally taking a long look in the mirror as to how we treat women, and we are disgusted with what we see. We should be. Our challenge is to now turn society’s revulsion into reform. Carpe diem, to seize the day. To learn, to grow, to change. That’s what we did with gun violence after Sandy Hook, that’s what we did with sexual assault on college campuses, that’s what we should do now after the exposure of the abuse of the women in this society. New York should lead the way once again. And we will.
I begin, again, by proposing that no taxpayer funds should be used to pay for any public official’s sexual harassment or misconduct – period. It is the bad act of the individual, let the individual pay. I propose that no state or local government enter into a secret nondisclosure agreement. We can protect a victim’s identity and privacy but the taxpayers have a right to know that that agreement exists and that their funds were used to pay for that agreement. I propose that any companies that do business with the state disclose the number of sexual harassment adjudications they have had and the number of nondisclosure agreements they have executed. I propose that the State of New York pension funds only be invested in companies that the Comptroller determines have adequate female and minority representation in management or on the board of directors to constitute good corporate leadership. Personally, I believe a company cannot have good management by definition if it effectively excludes women and minorities. I propose the legislature enact the contraceptive care act and finally, finally, finally pass Roe v. Wade. I propose the legislature pass a government-wide independent and anonymous whistle blower process so victims are free to communicate complaints without fear of retaliation. I propose that we really seize the opportunity. That New York enact a strict, new, uniform code of sexual harassment policies binding on all state employees and in all branches, in all authorities, all agencies, and on all local governments and set a new national standard of respect for women — and we set the bar high.
Let New York State stand and say we are not the state of denial – we acknowledge the longstanding bias and abuse against women – and New York says it stops, it stops now, and we will show you the way forward for other governments and industry to follow and that is the New York way.
The truth is racism and discrimination still exist. When I was in HUD, I sued the Ku Klux Klan for televised racist assaults – men with hoods – spewing venom. Today it is often more insidious. Discrimination is marbleized throughout our society and government.
As a starting point, we must ensure the people of our state that our democratic foundation – which is our justice system – is in fact, just. I spoke to this in my father’s eulogy and promised him we would improve the failings in our justice system and we will. We have made many reforms over the past few years, no doubt, but we have more to do. Let’s be painfully honest. The truth is that our Lady Justice is still not color blind and her scales are still not balanced. Our bail system is biased against the poor, too many jails are cruel and inhumane, and our court system is too slow. That is the painful truth.
To begin, our jails are filled with people who should not be incarcerated. Punishment is supposed to be imposed when one is found guilty. Incredibly 75 percent of the people in New York City jails have not been convicted of any crime. A similar story exists in other jails across the state. The blunt ugly reality is that too often, if you can make bail you are set free and if you are too poor to make bail you are punished. We must reform our bail system so a person is only held if a judge finds either a significant flight risk or a real threat to public safety. If so, they should be held in preventive detention whether they are rich or poor, black or white – but if not, they should be released on their own recognizance whether they are rich or poor, black or white. That is only fair. Race and wealth should not be factors in our justice system. It’s that clear.
We also need discovery reform and speedy trial reform. We need to move cases faster. We have people sitting in jails for years waiting to be heard. Trial parts must operate from 9 to 5 – no more half days – and a judge’s performance must be an essential criterion in advancement. Judicial vacancies must be filled on a timely basis. The backlog must be cleared and we must address it in this year’s budget. Because it just takes too long to try a case now. To compound this injustice, people are held in facilities and under conditions that we would condemn as human rights violations if they were occurring in another country. Our tolerance for the ongoing injustice is repugnant to our position as a progressive government. Some jails in our state have long records of violations that continue for years. We have been too complacent about the suffering of the powerless and voiceless. That is the truth.
A gentleman named Kalief Browder, an African American, spent three years in Rikers waiting for his day in court to be heard on his charge for allegedly stealing a backpack. Three years waiting to be heard for the charge of stealing a backpack. He was 16 years old. His abuse while jailed was so traumatic Kalief Browder ultimately determined taking his life was the only way to stop his continuing pain. Akeem Browder, Kalief’s brother, is here with us today, and I would ask him to stand. Akeem, I want you to know that your brother did not die in vain. Sometimes the Lord works in strange ways – but he opened our eyes to the urgent need for real reform. The state correction law authorizes the State to regulate local jails. We must act with a new urgency to safeguard the rights of all New Yorkers – New Yorkers who have been too long neglected. It is a state-wide problem and we will address it. It’s a statewide problem and we will address it and you have my word on that. I am directing the State Corrections Commission to develop legally binding corrective action plans or closure orders on jails that are out of compliance because enough is enough, we will not continue to endure this abuse. Thank you for being here. Thank you. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, justice too long delayed is justice denied and that is not our New York. Thank you for being here Akeem and we will make it right. Give Akeem a big round of applause.
Akeem, I want you to know that your brother did not die in vain. Sometimes the lord works in strange ways, but he opened our eyes to the urgent need for real reform. The state correction law authorizes the state to regulate local jails. We must act with a new urgency to safeguard the rights of all New Yorkers, New Yorkers who have been too long neglected. It’s a state wide problem, and we will address it and you have my word on that. I am directing the State Corrections Commission to develop legally binding corrective action plans for closure orders on jails that are out of compliance because enough is enough. We will not continue to endure this abuse. Thank you for being here, thank you. As Martin Luther King Jr said, “Justice too long delayed is justice denied” and that is not our New York. Thank you for being here Akeem, and we will make it right. You just watch. Give Akeem a big round of applause.
While nationwide minority and women owned businesses lag behind the norm, here in New York our MWBE program is a model for the nation. However, our local governments have not been as progressive, no local government in the state has even approached our NWBE performance. Let’s extend our MWBE goals to follow with all state funding dollars’ direct state spending and spending through local governments, make our goals a reality, and bring economic justice to all.
Our minority youth voucher program provides private employment training subsidies, it works. Unemployment among our young minority men and women has decreased 8 percent from 25 percent – 17 percent. That is great news. Go to the Bronx and let our Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. show you the 8,000 young people minority men and women who are now employed, earning their own way, and off the streets. Let him also buy your lunch while you’re there. Let’s expand it this year to serve 8,000 more young people and fund my Brother’s Keeper to make opportunity and hope a reality for all.
Homelessness is on the rise in our cities and worse than ever before, it pains me personally to acknowledge this reality. I began my public work at 26 running a not-for-profit to help homeless families. East New York that’s where I was. It became the largest in the nation. My sister Maria is with us here today who runs it now. In 1992 Mayor David Dinkins’ Homelessness Commission. When I was HUD Secretary we completed President Bill Clinton’s plan to solve homelessness. We always believed that this was a momentary problem. That it was just an anomaly, that this could not go on, and in many places in the country and in New York there was much progress, but now the problem has come back with a vengeance. The homeless numbers are at record highs. And looking forward with the Federal Government threatening to cut funding for homeless programs, it will only get worse, we must act. The most difficult issue is homeless people on the streets. The ultimate need we know is affordable housing and supporting housing and our budget has historic state commitment in these areas. But it is also an issue for our philosophy and expectations. We have grown too accepting. I’m old enough to remember that at one time there were no homeless people on the streets, it doesn’t have to be that way. What does it say about us as a society? That we now pass men and women lying on the streets with the same ease that we pass light poles and mailboxes. It has become a part of our new normal but it is abnormal and it is wrong. We must remember that while we aggressively protect the individual’s civil liberties, we believe in helping people in need. Leaving a sick person to fend for themselves in not progressive, charitable, ethical, or legal.
We should hold ourselves to a higher standard. It is our obligation as a caring people, a compassionate society, to reach out and provide whatever social services or address whatever needs the individuals presents. That is our job. New York State will ensure that every local government is effectively reaching out to homeless people or they will not receive state funding. Period. I’m also directing the MTA and Port Authority, Centro, CDTA, the RGRTA, the NFTA and all our cities to do the same. We must do more and we must do better. Yes, we have outreach programs that currently exist, but the numbers are going up, which means the job we’re doing isn’t good enough.
Now, some jurisdictions can say case law prevents them from helping mentally ill street homeless. If that is their excuse, they should tell us what law stops from helping sick homeless people and we will change the law this session. But let’s end this sad, societal failure. Let’s show our children this is not who we are as a society. This is not how we treat human beings. We are better than this, we are stronger than this, we are smarter than this and we are more compassionate than this. Let’s end this nightmare once and for all and let’s do it this year.
With all we have to do as a government, it is more important than ever that we have the public’s trust. I know the legislature feels that we have done much on ethics reform and they are right. I k now they feel that whatever we do, it will never be enough in this political atmosphere and they may be right, but we must do more anyway. The single best ethics reform is to ban outside income, remove any possibility for conflict and let legislators say ‘I work for the public. Period. And there are no possible conflicts presented.
Step two in our agenda is to focus on the new problems – rise in terrorism, environmental change, the opioid crisis, the federal threat to the labor movement and the distortion and manipulation of our elections by big donors, foreign money and social media advertising and the alienation of our citizens. We start with protecting the environment and recognizing the growing threats to our drinking water. The growing concentration of chemicals and pollution in some areas is literally poisoning the water. In upstate New York, in the beautiful lakes of upstate New York, we now have a toxic algae that is spreading and is literally endangering the drinking water. On Long Island, there’s something they call the Grumman Plume which is the discharge from the old Grumman factory that carries 30 years of industrial stains and contaminants and it’s literally moving to the south shore of Long Island where it will poison thousands of homes. We must attack these growing health threats now because we will not poison our children. We’ve been talking about them for years. No more procrastination, let’s resolve these issues and let’s do it this year.
We call an end to any investment in fossil fuel related activities in the pension fund and we’re going to work with Comptroller Tom DiNapoli because the future of the environment, the future of the economy and the future of our children is all in clean technology and we should put our money where our mouth is. Let’s give the Comptroller a big round of applause and thank him for his great work.
Last year, we announced one of the largest offshore wind projects in the nation. This year, I’m proud to announce that we will be putting out two RFPs for at least 800 megawatts in offshore wind power. Enough wind power to power 400,000 New York State households with clean energy. That is a great and clean step forward. We’re excited about it. I hope you are too.
The Hudson River is one of our greatest and most scenic waterways in the nation. For many years, General Electric polluted the river with PCBs. There has been progress made in cleaning it up, but the job is not done. So if the federal government releases GE saying the cleanup is complete. I’ll tell you what this State is going to do. We’re going to sue the federal government to stop it because we will not end our efforts until our future generations can once again fully enjoy the beautiful Hudson River.
Nationwide we are witnessing a shocking phenomenon. We are dying younger. Last year, life expectancy for Americans declined for the second year in a row, the first time that has happened in 50 years. The reason? A staggering 21 percent increase in drug overdoses. For Americans under 50 years old, drug overdoses, mostly opioid-related, are the leading cause of death. We must face it head on. We are committed to a comprehensive solution: more prevention, more education, more enforcement, more treatment. But we also want to advance a new approach this year, the ultimate follow the supply chain strategy. Big corporations may own Washington, but they don’t own New York.
The opioid crisis was manufactured, literally and figuratively. Unscrupulous distributors developed a $400 billion industry selling opioids, and they were conveniently blind to the consequences of their actions. They pumped these pills into society. And they created addictions. Like the tobacco industry, they killed thousands, and they did it without warning. We will make them pay for their illegal and reprehensible conduct. We will sue them, and we will stop the spread of opioids because too many innocent lives have been lost and the time for action is now before we lose another single life.
A case before Washington’s Supreme Court seeks to effectively end public labor unions. We will await the decision in the Janus case, but we must do all in our power to protect collective bargaining, the right to organize, and preserve workers’ rights.
We believe labor unions have built the middle class and we are proud that New York State has the highest percentage of union workers in the country. Today let us all pledge that we stand shoulder to shoulder with our union brothers and sisters in this fight and we will not give up and we will protect union workers in the State of New York. We stand in solidarity and we will not lose.
At this time of citizen alienation and outrage, the best thing we can do is let people know that their voice is heard, that they matter and that they can and they should vote. And we should make voting easier, not harder, with same day registration, no fault absentee ballots and early voting.
We should increase trust by closing the LLC loophole and open up the electoral process with public financing, but not our current public financing system that has public financing but private loopholes. I mean a true public financing system in which the exception does not swallow the rule. That’s what we need to do to regain the trust of the citizens in this state and across this nation.
Social media has revolutionized our elections. While we respect the freedom of the internet, it cannot subvert the law. Foreign countries like Russia and big anonymous donors cannot jeopardize our democracy. Social media must disclose who or what pays for political advertising because sunlight is still the best disinfectant.
Disclosure must apply to social media the same way that it applies to a newspaper ad or a TV ad or a radio ad. Anything else is a scam and a perversion of the law and an affront to democracy. Let’s stop this abuse, and while Washington talks about it and dithers, let New York lead the way and address this challenge and let’s do it this session.
Terrorism is morphing in unpredictable ways. The internet now provides easy access to ISIS instruction manuals, and lone wolves are a new threat. It is getting worse not better. The internet companies must search their hearts and minds to determine their obligation to public safety when they know who is visiting terrorist sites, and they know who is learning to kill Americans. That is their issue. In the meantime, our issue is to protect ourselves. Now the state owns many of the places of potential vulnerability, our bridges, tunnels, trains, buses and airports, our transit hubs like Penn Station and Grand Central.
Our transportation system must be better protected, and we must do it now. We have had warning. The past incidents shook everyone to the bone. We don’t need to understand anymore. We will do just that. In this year’s budget, we will do just that with more and better trained police and more state-of-the-art surveillance equipment, because government’s number one job is to protect its people, and we will do exactly that.
Penn Station is especially vulnerable. The most heavily traveled transit hub in the hemisphere. More people go through Penn Station every year than go through Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Airports combined. On top of the volume, the architecture and configuration of Penn is substandard. I call it the seven levels of catacombs. They don’t like when I say that, but it’s true. I have directed ESD, the MTA, and the Port Authority to work on a redevelopment plan with the neighboring private building owners so that we can restructure and rebuild Penn Station. They are cooperative and understand our needs and support our goal. We are now constructing a new Penn Station Farley Moynihan Train Hall right across the street. As that becomes operational, that will give us a flexibility to move operations from the old Penn to the new Farley. So we’re going to be coordinating with Amtrak, federal government, city officials to accelerate this comprehensive redevelopment project, which will improve the operation, the aesthetics and the security systems in Penn. The threat of terrorism is real. I take it very seriously as one of my prime responsibilities as Governor of this state. There is no time for politics, bureaucracy or delay. The State has the power of eminent domain for just such a purpose. We must make Penn better. We must make it safer. We must coordinate with all our partners, but we must do it now. There is no time for politics. There is no time for politics. No time for delay. We must fix Penn and we must fix it now.
Cashless tolling has been a great success at our downstate bridges and tunnels. It’s not just faster for the commuter and better for the environment. It’s also more secure. The new electronic toll structures are designed with state-of-the-art homeland security devices. They also have license plate readers. Police are on site and are electronically notified in three seconds of a violation or a suspicious plate from the license plate reader. It’s in place. It works. It works very well. Today we call on the Port Authority to do the same and install cashless tolling and security equipment on their crossings – the George Washington Bridge, the Outerbridge, Bayonne and Goethals Bridges, Holland, and Lincoln Tunnels. Let’s have the same cleaner environment, faster commute and more security on those Port Authority passings. And let the world know that they may consider New York a premier target but it is also the best protected state on the globe.
That’s the fact. We must improve the New York City subway system. We’ve failed to maintain an engineering marvel that was a gift from our forefathers. Our 100-year-old system needs an overhaul. We have 40-year-old subway cars and 80-year-old electric signals. Hurricane Sandy accelerated the decline because salt water and electric currents are a corrosive cocktail. Now, there is no mystery, we have to fix the system. We know how to fix the system. It’s a question of funding. We need short-term funding this year to do emergency repairs and to install the new technology for a long-term solution. We also need long-term funding that is fair to all and also addresses the growing traffic and population problems. The Fix New York Panel will shortly present a report that will have several options for the legislature to consider. We will have new technology installed which will offer a variety of alternatives, defining an exclusive zone in Manhattan where additional charges could be paid. These are difficult choices, but difficult choices do not get easier by ignoring them. They only get harder. And in the meantime, cheap political slogans are just that—cheap political slogans. It’s not a real policy or policy discussion. And that’s what we need. Santa Claus did not visit the State Capitol this year. I was watching. Funding must be provided in a very tight budget and funding must be provided this session because the riders have suffered for too long, politics has gone on for too long, and we can’t leave our riders stranded anymore—period.
Our third challenge is in many ways the greatest. The budgetary and economic challenges we face short-term and long-term compounded by the federal assault on New York. This is literally going to define the future of this state. President Ford may have metaphorically told New York to drop dead in 1975—but this federal government is the most hostile and aggressive toward New York in history. It has shot an arrow aimed at New York’s economic heart. We must start this year with a $4 billion deficit compounded by a $2 billion cut primarily from the federal government and health care.
Even worse, the federal tax bill reshapes the nation’s economy. Their plan is trickle down on steroids. It didn’t work in the 80’s and it won’t work now. The rich will no doubt get richer, but if the federal government really wanted to help workers, which is what they said all along, that they wanted to help workers, they wanted to help the middle class, if that’s what they wanted to do, then the law they passed would have mandated that the corporations tax cut windfall go to pay workers higher wages or go to create jobs. That’s what they would have done. When you write a law, you write a law to do what you want it to do. They didn’t include any of that in their tax ball, and the omission speaks volumes. This tax cut handed rich corporations a blank check. And now even federal Republican senators are criticizing this. All this will do is increase income inequality, and the pain and the frustration and the anger of our middle class, and our poor.
And at the same time, Washington has launched an all-out direct attack on New York state’s economic future by eliminating full deductibility of state and local taxes. What this is going to do, is this effectively raises middle class and working family’s property tax 20 to 25 percent all across the state. It raises their state income tax 20 to 25 percent all across the state. There is no conceivable justification. New York is already the number one donor state in the nation. We pay $48 billion more to Washington than we get back. No state contributes more to the federal government and gets back less than New York State. On top of that injustice, Washington’s tax plan now uses New York and California as piggy banks to finance tax cuts for Republican states. New York will pay an additional $14 billion on top of the $48 billion that we currently pay. Remember the old adage robbing Peter to pay Paul. Well they changed it. You’re now robbing the blue states to pay for the red states.
It is crass, it is ugly, it is divisive, it is partisan legislating, it is an economic civil war. And make no mistake, they are aiming to hurt us. This could cause people to leave the state of New York. And it could reduce our ability to attract business. We must take dramatic action to save ourselves and preserve our state’s economy. We have a three-point strategy to address the federal assault.
First—we believe it is illegal, and we will challenge it in court as unconstitutional.
Thank you, thank you.
We will challenge it in court as unconstitutional, the first federal double taxation in history, violative of state’s rights and the principle of equal protection. And let’s thank the Attorney General and give him a round of applause for his good work in representing us.
Second—we will lead the resistance to this injustice and start our own repeal and replace effort. Launching a tax fairness for all campaign. We begin today and we will not stop until economic justice is restored for every state and every taxpayer in the state of New York. In the immortal words of John Paul Jones, “we have not yet begun to fight,” my friends.
Third – as Washington has shot an arrow aimed at New York’s economic heart, the best plan is to get out of the way before it hits. So we are exploring the feasibility of a major shift. Different states have different tax structures. Some use a gross receipts tax. Some have a severance tax. We are developing a plan to restructure our tax code to reduce reliance on our current income tax system and adopt a statewide payroll tax system. Now, payroll taxes are legal, the federal government currently has a payroll tax system. We’re also exploring creating additional charitable organizations so that contributions to those charitable organizations would be tax deductible. And we’re also addressing the Wall Street giveaway called the carried interest loophole, which is another device to give away revenue to people who don’t need it.
We are working with our legislative partners and with our local government partners, we’re discussing this restructuring and you’ll hear more about it in our budget presentation. It is complicated, it is difficult, but it is clear that we must protect New York taxpayers from this assault. And it is clear that we must not allow big corporations to enjoy a windfall at the expense of our middle class and our working families.
It’s not going to be easy, it is going to be complicated, but I believe working together we will get it done because working together we must get it done to represent in good faith, the people of our great state. And I look forward to making it a reality with all of us, together. Because life is options, and on this one it’s simple: we have no choice. If we do not fix this problem, it is a question of the State of New York’s economic viability in the long term. It’s a question of our competitiveness, long term. And preserving the strength of New York State and New York State’s economy at a time when we have a federal government that is giving other states a structural competitive advantage against us. We’re not going to let that happen. We are New York State, we have faced challenges internationally, domestically, and the threat from this federal government is not going to derail the great State of New York, that I promise you.
And it’s important as we face this next year, which is going to be a tough year, it’s important that you remember that we are up to the challenge. We forget all the good work that we have done. We forget all the times we’ve been told, no you can’t and we show that we can. We’re going to do the same thing this year. In the meantime, we need to do a fiscal plan for this year in this budget. And the best way forward is to continue the same path that we have been on. Our philosophy rests on two pillars: economic growth and social progress. And we must maintain those New York priorities. We must continue our historic investment in public education and expand three and four-year-old pre-K and after school and computer sciences because our greatest asset is our young people and everything we do is for their future. We must address education funding inequities and dedicate more of our state school aid to poorer districts. This year, we should even take it a step further and make sure that the local education districts that we’re giving the grants to are distributing the aid to their poorer schools because that’s the point. Trickle-down economics doesn’t work, nor does trickle-down education funding. Local districts must give more funding to their poorer schools, period. That’s only right. And that’s only fair.
We must continue our investment in healthcare. We must preserve the Medicaid program and the CHP program, health insurance for poor children. Because in New York, healthcare is not just for the rich, it’s a human right. And we’re going to protect it. And we’re going to preserve it. And we’re going to keep our healthcare industry in New York strong, and vibrant, and the economic engine of public service that it is.
We have been, we are, the nation’s leader in building infrastructure. And the infrastructure is growing our economy. We’re ahead of every other state in the nation in terms of infrastructure development. And we must increase our advantage this year and double-down on our investments.
We also must continue our groundbreaking social progress to advance equality and opportunity for all. Because we are all immigrants and we are all equal under the eyes of god and the laws of New York. We can and must achieve all these goals and we will.
On the economy, our economic focus is going to remain on helping working men and women by continuing our Middle Class Recovery Act. We start by giving them immediate relief, not with words, not with slogans, but with actions and cutting taxes for the middle class. From 6.45 to 5.5 for those making 40 to 150 and from 6.65 to 6 percent for those making 150 to 300. My friends, this is going to be the lowest middle class tax rate since 1947. That is so long ago that even I wasn’t alive then.
While the federal government is making college less affordable, we must expand our Excelsior Free College Program that helps children of our anxious middle class and tells every child in New York, their dreams can be realized and their future can be brighter. That if they get into college, they will not be denied because they can’t afford it because they are children of the Family of New York, rich or poor, we will pay their tuition.
And in the same spirit, we must include our young new immigrants and we must pass the Dream Act this year.
We must continue to attack the highest tax burden in the state. Not a state tax, but the cost of local government. Our local property tax. Railed against by FDR, repeatedly. Who actually prophesized the growing local property tax was going to be a major economic problem for the state. And it is. Property taxes now are nearly three times what the state income tax is. Our property taxes have long been an obstacle to growth but today, the federal SALT provision, it is an economic cancer. Property taxes have just been raised by the federal tax plan 20 to 25 percent. It will be an unbearable financial burden for many. Look at the response already. Last week we announced an emergency executive order on Long Island allowing people to prepay their property taxes. Thousands and thousands of New Yorkers stood on lines for hours in frigid temperatures to prepay next year’s property taxes so they could get the deduction. All across the state. That’s the level of fear, that people would go to that extent. That’s what we’re dealing with. We must increase the efforts by local governments to reduce costs. I know it’s politically difficult. I know in every town, in every village everyone has their own fiefdom, their own rights, their own obligations. But I also know it’s a matter of economic survival. We know it can be done. Last year for the first time we said to county executives, you bring all those local governments together and you put them in one room and you talk to each other and you come up with a plan to save funding. And you know what? They did it. They stepped up. 34 counties submitted plans that will lead to more than 200 million dollars in savings. But, we must do more. Because property taxes are now toxic to our economy and our stability. And that is going to be at the top of our agenda for this year. Working with local governments. Working with county executives. Finding ways to get those property taxes down so the federal increase does not derail the progress of the state of New York.
We must continue to attract and create the jobs of tomorrow. And we must do it today. Every president has told us the same thing: it’s about improving our infrastructure, the New York difference is we don’t promise it, or propose it or talk about it – we do it. Good government is about action. We must continue to exercise our New York muscle and imagination. The New York spirit that built the tallest buildings and the longest bridges that defy gravity, pessimism and the naysayers. We have proven we can do it and do it well. Now we must do more of it. We must accelerate the modernization of our airports in New York City and all across upstate. We must accelerate our air train to LaGuardia so that every major city in the world has a train to the plane. We must open our transportation deserts and have the Port Authority and the MTA consider relocating the Red Hook Marine Terminal and explore whether Red Hook has enough transportation alternatives, or if they should study the possibility of a new subway line to stimulate Red Hook’s community-based development the way we did on the west side of Manhattan and East side line. We should continue to peruse a tunnel from Long Island to Westchester or Connecticut. DOT has determined it’s feasible, it would be under water, it would be invisible, it would reduce traffic on the impossibly congested Long Island Expressway and would offer significant potential private investment. We will also accelerate the Long Island Railroad modernization, it’s long overdue but it’s critical to the economy.
In 2018 as part of our $6.6 billion LIRR transformation plan we’ll finish the double track on the Ronkonkoma Line and we will finish it 16 months ahead of schedule and we will then and we will then begin construction of the third track along the main line which carries 40 percent of the LIRR riders. We are also rebuilding 39 stations. All together 100 projects which will transform the Long Island Railroad and transform the quality of life on Long Island finally thanks to you. We also had really good news several weeks ago when it was announced that the New York Islanders are moving back home to Long Island. And they are going to build a $1 billion hockey stadium at Belmont Racetrack. That’s how much they believe in Long Island. We have with us the owners of the Islanders, Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky. Could you please stand? Let’s give them a round of applause for believing in New York. We also have defenseman Calvin De Haan and left-wing Nikolay Kulemin. Stand up and let’s give them a round of applause and thank you for being here. Welcome back to Long Island.
A new economy is growing Upstate and we can’t allow a federal tax plan to derail our progress there. The Regional Economic Development Councils have done a great jobs with 6,300 development projects underway. Every region has seen a drop in unemployment and underemployment. This year will we start by continuing the REDCs and also bring cashless tolling to the New York State thruway system because we should make it faster and cleaner the way it’s working so well in downstate New York. We have new projects like Rock the Riverway in Rochester which will transform the Genesee Waterfront into a destination center and make Joe Morelli very happy. In the Southern Tier our development of the hemp industry will continue by partnering on a new hemp processing facility. In Syracuse we will do a DEIS for Route 81 as a tunnel and or as a community grid so we can look at both options and we’re going to proceed on the Inland Port at DeWitt because they’ve been talking for too long and doing too little and we’re going to make it a reality. And we also have great news in Syracuse and I want to congratulate Syracuse in Central New York today. We’re proud to announce that the AAA New York Chiefs will soon be the AAA New York Mets playing in Syracuse for Central New York. They are here with us today. Mets Owner Jeff Wilpon please stand up, Jeff. Richard Brown Managing Partner of Sterling Equities, Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson. Yay Sandy. Mets Manager Mickey Callaway, Mets Infielder and the Bronx’s own T.J. Rivera. And Mets outfielder Brandan Nimmo. Thank you guys welcome to Central New York. Congratulations County Executive Mahoney. That is great news.
The I Love New York campaign has revealed the secret that we have kept for too long. The secret is the beauty and the history of our state. Since 2011, our $200 million tourism investment has seen tourism spending increase $18 billion. That’s an investment my friends. And we should continue new modernization investments in Bellayre, Gore, and Whiteface Mountains to make them first rate ski resorts. We’re proposing a new history trail leading to Elon in the Hudson Valley, expediting a new exposition center in Syracuse which will be the largest exposition center in the northeast to continue to continue to attract tourists. It’s about jobs, jobs and jobs and tourism means jobs in Upstate New York so let’s do it because that’s where we need the jobs.
While our federal government is deconstructing parks, we believe they are a national treasure. We are going to increase our commission to our state parks – $63 million investment in Upstate parks, we’re going to build a new state park in Brooklyn, New York, 407 acres on Jamaica Bay. It’s going to be the largest park in New York City. And we have the Hudson River Park in New York City which is on the Manhattan west side. It was started by my father and Mayor Dinkins. It was supposed to be finished in 2003. It was derailed by ongoing disputes. We now have settled the disputes. We now have a full completion plan that completes the park from Battery Park City to 59th Street. We should finalize this amazing finishing and complete Manhattan’s west side. Let’s do it this year.
Now ladies and gentlemen, I am a realist. I know that this an ambitious agenda and I know it is probably the most challenging agenda that I have ever put forth. But these are challenging times, and we have to rise to the challenge for the very survival of our state. $4 billion deficit economic challenges, social wrongs, and a federal assault. All at once. This small-minded and the naysayers are going to forecast gloom and doom. Negativity is the dominant feeling in today’s political environment. But this is New York, and that is not the New York way. The New York way is to make the seemingly impossible, possible. You tell us we can’t do it; you only get us excited to show you we can. And we have done it time and time again and we have the track record to prove it. I want you to remember and appreciate what you’ve done. So when you’re looking at these challenges and you’re thinking about these challenges this year and you’re saying well jeez I don’t know if we can get it done, remember what we are doing. Remember what we have overcome. You have done and you have accomplished more than any administration in modern history. Just think about it.
We’re building new airports at LaGuardia, JFK, Rochester, Syracuse, Plattsburgh, Elmira, Corning, and at Stewart. We’re building new train stations in Schenectady, Niagara Falls, Rochester, a new Moynihan train hall at Penn which is transforming the Long Island Railroad. We’re building the Exposition Center at the State Fair, a new Jacob Javits Convention Center, the new Albany Convention Center, cashless tolling all across the state, the Woodbury Transit Hub, the University of Buffalo Medical School, the Buffalo Children’s Hospital. We’re building a new Utica Hospital, we’re building a new Kosciuszko Bridge, a national comedy center in Jamestown, we’re building new Upstate tourism resorts—state of the art from the ground up. We have a Tesla Panasonic Plant that we built in Buffalo, a Legoland Theme Park in the Hudson Valley, the Rochester Data Consortium. We are revitalizing Jones Beach, updating Gore Whiteface in Belleayre, we’re expanding Alstom in the Southern Tier, we’re expanding GM in Western New York, we’re expanding Welsh Island in Skinny Atlas, we’re attracting XX in Rochester, we’re attracting DanFoss to Utica, we’re attracting Soft Defense Company to Syracuse, attracting the North Titanium Plant to Plattsburgh, we’re creating a new healthcare system in Brooklyn called Vital Brooklyn, and we’re building the new Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.
So, don’t tell me we can’t do it, because we can. There is nothing that we have put our minds to that we haven’t accomplished. And it’s not just about the projects we have built. That’s great, and that’s great for the economy. But in some ways, what’s even more special to me, is the lives that we have changed, the civil rights that we have created, the dignity that we have given people, and we have some of them here today, and I would ask them to stand when they were acknowledged. Those we helped when we said love doesn’t discriminate and we passed marriage equality for all New Yorkers. Those we helped when we said we believe people deserve a fair wage for a fair day’s work, and you shouldn’t have to choose between paying rent and paying for food, and we passed the minimum wage – stand up. Those we helped when we said live your life in dignity and we passed paid family leave – stand up. Those we helped when we passed Raise the Age and gave them a second chance – stand up. Those we protected when we passed Enough is Enough and stopped sexual assault – stand up. Those we helped when we passed the Excelsior scholarship program – stand up. Those we helped when we passed the first special prosecutor in the nation against police violence and minorities – stand up. Let’s thank them all for being here today – give them a big round of applause.
Thank you. And we thank our legislators, our members of the Senate, our members of the Assembly – wait, let me tell you why. We thank our legislators because they understand that political extremism leads to polarization, paralysis and gridlock, and in gridlock everyone loses. And they understand that government is about doing good things for people, and moving the state forward. And they have the professionalism to remember that we may be democrats, we may be republicans, but we are New Yorkers first and that’s how we act. We find common ground and we move forward. Senate, Assembly – stand up, thank you for everything you’ve done. Thank you for all the laws you’ve passed. Thank you for passing the budgets on time. Thank you for 15 dollars. Thank you for all the lives you’ve changed.
So, in closing my friends, a few weeks ago I turned 60 years old. There is no good news about turning 60 years old. They say, “Well, 60 is the new 50.” 50 stinks too. There’s nothing, and there’s nothing even to look forward to. The only thing you can say now is it’s better than the alternative. Most days it is. But you turn 60, life gets a little simpler, and it gets a little clearer. You’re living in the world that we’re living in now that is frightening at times, that is challenging at times, and you start to think about what really matters, and what’s the best thing we can really be doing to help each other and to help this state. And I will tell you the God’s-honest truth. I’m not afraid about the economics and the federal assault and the four billion dollars and the six billion – that’s hard, but we know how to do that, and we will do that, and we’ve done it before. My greatest fear is the division that is spreading among our people. We have seen more anti-Semitism, more racial attacks, more religious tensions than in decades – all across the state.
Now, I understand the emotions: the country is searching its way through a challenging period and a confusing period. The economy is changing, there’s terrorism, Mother Nature’s constant bombardment, the unnerving constant pace of change in society. So anxiety is at a fever pitch. You feel it up around your neck. And now there’s a negative synergy, a sense that we are out of control, and that breeds a fear, and that fear breeds an anger, and that anger breeds a division, and that division makes us smaller and weaker. Our internal divisions are a cancer to our body politic. And our federal government is furthering the divisions. They govern by dividing. It’s winners versus losers, it’s rich versus middle class versus poor, it’s black versus white, it’s red states versus blue states, it’s documented versus undocumented, gay versus straight, Muslims versus Jews versus Christians. It’s always pitting one group against the other. It’s always conflict. It’s always either or, and much harm has been done. As the greatest Republican president Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” But our obligation as leaders is not just to say what we are against, but also what we support.
Our obligation as leaders is not just to criticize, but to offer an alternative – and we do. New York follows a different path. New York believes that there is no future through division, but only through unity. The New York Way is to believe diversity is not a liability; it is the exact opposite. Diversity is our greatest asset. We celebrate it. The New York Way is that tolerance is expected from all and inclusion is our operating principle, and forging community is our ultimate goal. 18 million New Yorkers from 190 countries, all immigrants, all newcomers, virtually all poor and in search of opportunity, all invited here by the same invitation extended by the great lady who stands in our harbor.
For Kathy Hochul and John Flanagan’s families from Ireland, for Carl Heastie family from the Bahamas, Tom DiNapoli’s family from Italy, Eric Schneiderman’s family from Russia – invited to forge one family: the family of New York. Gay and straight, white and black and brown, upstate and downstate – all working together, focusing on what unites us rather than divides us and then building on that commonality. Now, this is not a new principle. It’s not a democratic or republican idea, nor is it even uniquely New York.
It is an idea proven over 240 years. It is the nation’s founding premise and enduring promise. It is our Founding Fathers’ essential wisdom summed up in just three words: e pluribus unum. Out of many, one. So fundamental to the American idea that in 1782 they stitched the words on the great seal of the United States, and that seal and those words are on the flag that has hung in the Oval Office every day since. Right behind President Trump’s desk. To find the way forward, the president only needs to turn around.
That, my friends, is the true formula for what makes America great. That is the simple yet profound idea that made America the greatest country on the globe. And New York – New York was the laboratory for that idea. We proved that it worked in 1782, and we proved that it works today. This year, let us show what New York is at its best. Let us show this nation the New York lesson: that at times of trouble and anxiety, the premise that made America great still guides us. That we do not seek to raise ourselves by pulling another down, but rather believe we succeed by raising each other up. That is the New York Way. And the New York Way is true north.
And our true north is to follow the credo on our great seal of the State of New York: always reach higher, always hear our better angels, always aspire to unify, and always point up.
Excelsior! Thank you and God bless you.