ALBANY, N.Y. - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo Wednesday delivered his 2013 State of the State Address, outlining a comprehensive agenda that builds on the progress of the past two years to attract good jobs and economic growth, create a world-class education system that prepares the next generation for the future, maintain fiscal integrity and discipline, and continue to restore New York as the progressive capital of the nation.
"New York is on its way, coming back stronger than ever before, rising to meet some of the biggest challenges in our history, remaining as a progressive beacon of light to the rest of the nation, and standing out as a model of effective government," Governor Cuomo said. "Gone are the anti-business, obstructionist, tax capital, and gridlock mentalities, replaced with an entrepreneurial government that collaboratively works together for the people and partners with the private sector to create jobs and get the economy back on track. The agenda laid out today is a comprehensive plan for New York State to rise to meet the challenges of today and the future, from confronting the difficult issue of gun control, to reforming our education system for the 21st century, and rebuilding our communities and infrastructure after Hurricane Sandy. Our accomplishments over the past two years show us that one thing is clear: We can defy the odds and deny the naysayers, and we can accomplish anything together."
Governor Cuomo outlined the below initiatives as part of his State of the State message. For more information visit: www.NYGetInvolved.com.
This year's economic development program will build upon the work of the Regional Economic Development Councils as well as partnerships with higher education, because New York's one-two punch is jobs and education.
Tech Transfer—from Academia to Commercialization: As many of the country's most significant high-tech economic clusters owe their success to technology transfer, the Governor proposed steps to accelerate the commercialization of good ideas and the creation of new businesses to take them to market. Steps include:
Reforming Workers' Compensation and Unemployment Insurance for Businesses and Workers: To continue to lower the cost of doing business in New York and reduce the crushing burden of unemployment insurance and workers' compensation, the Governor proposed reforms to both systems that will save businesses $1.3 billion, while also increasing unemployment insurance benefits to workers for the first time since 1999.
Making New York the Leader in the Clean Tech Economy: To continue to establish New York as a national leader in building a clean tech economy program, the Governor announced the following steps:
Preparing the Workforce of Today and Tomorrow: To retool New York's workforce to be prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow, the Governor proposed steps to reimagine the SUNY and CUNY community colleges to ensure the state's job training programs produce the trained personnel that businesses need:
Market NY to Focus on Upstate Economic Development: The Governor today announced Market NY, a new multi-faceted marketing plan to bolster Upstate growth.
New York's economic recovery and future strength is dependent on a top-quality education system that prepares our students to succeed in the 21st century economy. While tremendous progress has been made over the last two years, there remains much more work to be done to meet the educational needs of our children and prepare them for the future. Drawing on the work of the New NY Education Reform Commission, the Governor announced a comprehensive strategy to transform and modernize public education.
More Learning Time: Research shows that students who have more time to learn have higher academic achievement than their peers. This is apparent in schools across the country, where quality learning time has been successfully and creatively expanded, resulting in significant student performance gains, especially in low-income communities. To help close the achievement gap, the Governor announced steps for our students to spend more time learning.
Better Teachers and Principals: Research suggests that teachers account for one-third of a school's total impact on student achievement and that principal leadership accounts for 25 percent. The Governor announced that a district's school aid increase will continue to be contingent on local adoption of an appropriate teacher evaluation system agreed to by school districts and union leadership. In addition, the Governor today announced steps for the state to better recruit and retain the best and brightest to educate students, provide teachers and principals with the support they need to be successful, and continue to recognize and reward successful educators throughout their career.
Education in Distressed Communities: Recognizing that the demands of schools in wealthier districts are different than those in lowest wealth districts, the Governor announced plans to improve education and the resources offered by schools in New York's neediest communities.
Round 3 of NYSUNY2020 and a New NYCUNY2020: The NYSUNY2020 initiative has succeeded in leveraging the economic power of the State's university system as a private sector job generator. The Governor proposed a third round of NYSUNY2020 and a first round of NYCUNY2020 that will offer additional grants for 2- and 4-year colleges and universities within both the SUNY and CUNY systems. Projects will be selected in a competitive manner based on economic impact, advancement of academic goals, innovation, and collaboration.
New York has a long history of being a beacon for progressive change, from the birthplace of the movement for women's rights, to worker protections, to decent, affordable housing, intelligent environmental protection and safe energy sources; and becoming the largest and most influential state to extend marriage equality to all its citizens. Yet there is much work to do, and this year's agenda calls for making the state a fairer, more just place for all residents, with a focus on expanding women's equality, ending racial injustice, and fighting poverty.
Raising the Minimum Wage: A reasonable minimum wage increases the standard of living for workers, reduces poverty, incentivizes fair and more efficient business practices, and ensures that the most vulnerable members of the workforce can contribute to the economy. New York's current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is below that of 19 other states and prior adjustments have not kept up with increases in the cost of living. The Governor proposed to raise the minimum wage to $8.75 an hour.
Stop and Frisk: While stop and frisk can play an important role in the prevention of crime, there are also significant costs, including a deterioration of relationships between community residents and law enforcement, and the reality that stops fall disproportionately on communities of color and, in particular, on the young.
Ensuring Fairness in the Justice System: Mistaken eyewitness identifications contributed to approximately 75% of wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence. False confessions contributed to approximately 25% of wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence.
Create the $1 Billion House NY Program: For the past two years, the state has made major investments in the development of affordable housing across New York as both a source of economic and community development. The Governor today proposed the House NY program, consisting of $1 billion to produce or preserve over 14,000 units of affordable housing over the next 5 years. As part of House NY, the state will invest in the most successful affordable housing programs to help meet unfulfilled housing need, as well as revitalize New York's Mitchell-Lama Affordable Housing Program to rehabilitate housing units that are suffering from deferred maintenance and other physical deficiencies.
The REDC Opportunity Agenda to Revitalize Poor Communities: The REDC Opportunity Agenda will build on the success and expertise of the Regional Economic Development Councils to help overcome the challenges that prevent poor communities from fully participating in our state's economic revitalization. Each Regional Council will focus on one distressed community, identify strategies that will address the challenges of concentrated poverty, and then be able to competitively seek funding through a streamlined process.
Achieving Equality for Women: New York has long served as a model for equality and fairness on several issues including women's rights. The Governor today announced plans to advance a 10-Point Women's Equality Act that will break down barriers that perpetuate discrimination and inequality based on gender. The Governor's 10-Point proposal will:
Fighting Hunger in New York: To combat hunger in New York State, Governor Cuomo announced that an anti-hunger task force will be launched to increase participation in federally-funded anti-hunger programs, increase the use of New York farm products and healthy foods in anti-hunger programs, and facilitate private-sector efforts in partnership with the government to meet the above goals.
Creating "CORe" Neighborhoods: In New York State, distress is concentrated in a small number of areas. For example, in a high-crime neighborhood within Rochester, a black man between the ages of 15 and 29 is 33 times more likely to be murdered than in the rest of the nation. In Newburgh, 37 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and two-thirds of residents have no more than a high school diploma. To confront this challenge, the Governor proposed the Community, Opportunity, Reinvestment (CORe) initiative to better align state support with local needs, while supporting successful community-based efforts, so that the state can do a better job allocating resources to make measurable and sustained progress in improving high-need communities.
Focus on Public Health: The best way to improve the health of New Yorkers and to lower health care costs is to avoid preventable illness. While New York already expends considerable resources to support a broad array of public health initiatives and is considered a leader in this effort, the state needs to update programs and policies to better respond to the emerging health care issues of an increasingly complex social dynamic.
From an all-crimes DNA databank and one of the nation's toughest texting-while-driving laws, to crackdowns on child pornography, domestic violence, and cyberbullying, New York has been on the forefront of putting in place some of the strongest public safety laws in the nation. However, with the nation still reeling from the senseless massacre in Newtown, Connecticut and our State still mourning the loss of first responders in Webster's shooting tragedy, New York must say enough is enough to gun violence.
Safe and Fair Gun Policy: There have been far too many lives claimed as a result of gun violence in recent years, from Columbine, to Virginia Tech, Aurora, Newtown, and Webster. New York once led the way: ‘Sullivan's Law' of 1911 was the nation's first gun control law—a model law that required a permit for possession of a hand gun. The time has come to make New York safer and once again lead the way for other states to follow.
Staying Ahead of the Game on Dangerous Designer Synthetic Drugs: To continue the state's work to keep designer drugs off the streets and out of the hands of our children, the Governor proposed plans to make designer drugs like bath salts and synthetic marijuana Schedule I drugs—on par with heroin, LSD, marijuana, and ecstasy. The Governor will propose legislation to criminalize the sale and possession of these substances, and ensure the laws provide flexibility to immediately tackle the next iteration of designer drugs.
New York State Cyber Security Initiative: There is no question that cyber attacks pose a serious risk to our state and nation. The Governor announced that the state will launch a Cyber Security Initiative that will include the creation of a new, first-in-the-nation facility that brings together monitoring of both the cyber and physical aspects of critical infrastructure in New York State.
For government to function and be effective, it must have the trust of the people. The Governor today proposed a series of reforms to give New Yorkers a stronger voice in government and strengthen the state's democracy.
Campaign Finance Reform: Currently, New York has the highest contribution limits among states that limit them at all and the third lowest rate of participation in campaigns. To rebuild trust in government, the Governor today outlined a series of steps that will bring fairness and greater disclosure to the state's campaign finance laws.
Early Voting Ensures Easy and Effective Voting: The Governor proposed that New York create an early voting system that is at least one week long, and includes the weekend before a scheduled Election Day. Early voting strengthens democracy by making it easier and more convenient to vote and promotes higher voter turnout. It also reduces long lines at polling sites and eases the administrative burden on Boards of Elections on Election Day.
Make Our Ballots More Readable: State election laws require that all printed ballots contain numerous symbols, numbers, and bits of text that clutter the ballot and force election officials to use miniscule font sizes. These laws need to be reformed to make ballots more readable and more user-friendly.
OPEN NY: To increase transparency, citizen engagement, and government performance, Governor Cuomo plans to launch OPEN NY, an easy, single-stop electronic portal to provide public access to statewide and agency-level data, reports, statistics, compilations and information. This initiative will reap substantial benefits by making valuable government data available to researchers, innovators, and the public, leading to cost savings, improvements in government accountability and collaboration, and enhanced trust in government.
Local Government Finance: The Governor proposed creating a Financial Restructuring Assistance Program to offer advice to all counties, cities, towns and villages to help restructure their finances. The program will be run by a joint Task Force made up of the Comptroller, Attorney General, Division of Budget, and private-sector restructuring consultants.
Responding to the Crisis
In just two years, New Yorkers have witnessed firsthand the destructive force of three powerful storms that have crippled the state: Irene, Lee and most recently Sandy. Each has taken an immeasurable toll on communities. Precious lives have been lost, and homes and businesses destroyed. Extreme weather is the new normal. The Governor today outlined a series of proposals for the state to fortify and upgrade the systems that can paralyze us when they fail during an emergency, as well as act to tackle the reality of a changing climate. These proposals draw from the work of four commissions that the Governor announced in November: NYS Respond, NYS Ready, NYS 2100 and the Moreland Commission on utility storm preparedness and response.
Lower the Regional Greenhouse Gas Emissions Cap: Nine states including New York participate in the CO2 cap and trade program. The current cap is 165 million tons of CO2 and is well above the current emissions level of 91 million tons of CO2. As CO2 emissions have declined over 30% since the cap was established, the Governor proposed lowering the cap on CO2 emissions to a level that guarantees we will reduce emissions below current levels.
Increase Alternative Local Renewable Power Sources: To reduce dependence on centralized power plants and avoid outages, the Governor proposed increasing the use of alternative local power (distributed generation of electricity) using renewable sources, natural gas, and energy storage.
Ensure a Skilled Energy Workforce: To address a lack of young members of the workforce with skills in the energy sector, the Governor announced that the State will enhance efforts in workforce training by expanding energy career training and placement programs and promoting awareness of the need for skilled energy workers.
Improve the Resilience of Our Buildings: The Governor proposed updating the State Building Code to promote smarter, resilient building performance, as well as increased survivability. These changes would impact new construction and major renovations to existing construction, and would take into account the impact on different geographies and building types and consider factors such as effectiveness for protecting health and safety, as well as cost.
Provide Assistance to Property Owners to Mitigate or Sell Properties in Vulnerable Areas: The Governor announced that the state will use various strategies to assist home and business owners whose properties were damaged in Hurricane Sandy to mitigate for the future or, if they choose to do so, to sell their properties and relocate.
Ensure that Healthcare Facilities are Resilient: The Governor proposed to update the Department of Health's review of applications for new and substantial expansion of hospitals and nursing homes to consider location and infrastructure vulnerabilities. Under the proposal, healthcare facility applicants would be required to address the risks associated with being in a vulnerable location.
Harden our Infrastructure: The Governor outlined a series of proposals designed to harden New York's infrastructure to better withstand future major storms.
Redesign Our Power System: The electrical power grid and the structures that control it must undergo a fundamental redesign that improves performances and protects ratepayers.
Effective Emergency Response: Preparing for disasters and responding to emergency events requires collaboration and coordination among local, State and federal authorities; non-governmental organizations; and the private sector, as well as skilled first responders and a network of civilians ready to help their fellow citizens during an emergency.