Photos Courtesy of Mike Groll and
Darren McGee/Office of the Governor
By Michael V. Cusenza
Governor Andrew Cuomo recently delivered his eighth State of the State address, an ambitious slate of social and economic policies and legislative reforms that, he said, “will increase opportunity for New Yorkers and ensure that it continues to serve as a beacon of equality, unity and fairness for the nation.”
“New York believes that there is no future built through division—but only through unity. The New York way is that tolerance is expected from all, inclusion is our operating principle, and forging community is the ultimate goal,” Cuomo said at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany. “For too long in this country, government has promised too much and delivered too little. This administration understands that effective government requires citizen confidence and management competence. To better society, government leaders must be dreamers and doers; visionaries and achievers. We are facing unprecedented challenges to women’s rights, our immigrant community, the environment and our economy. New York is unwavering. We will continue to lead the nation by fighting to protect and advance the rights of all women, ensuring the integrity of our elections, safeguarding New York’s natural resources, creating the jobs of tomorrow, combating the federal assault on our tax code and reforming our criminal justice system so that wealth does not dictate outcome.”
Highlights of the 90-minute address include: keeping NY economically competitive; advancing the women’s agenda; launching a comprehensive plan to attack homelessness; expanding educational opportunity; building 21st Century infrastructure; and health care.
Keeping the Empire State economically competitive centers on reducing taxes, Cuomo said. New lower tax rates will save middle class New Yorkers nearly $6.6 billion in the first four years, and annual savings are projected to reach $4.2 billion and benefit six million filers by 2025, according to the governor.
To advance the women’s agenda, the State needs to: combat sexual harassment in the workplace; remove firearms from domestic abusers; end sextortion and revenge porn; pass the comprehensive contraceptive coverage act; and call on the State Common Retirement Fund to invest in companies with women and minority leadership, Cuomo noted.
New York’s plan to attack homelessness calls for an increase in mental health and substance use disorder services for individuals experiencing homelessness; and a comprehensive homeless services plan from each local social services district.
On education, Cuomo indicated that the State will make investments to strengthen early childhood programming; ensure no student goes hungry; and expand access to higher education.
The governor touted New York’s $100 billion infrastructure program during this year’s State of the State. This plan includes $11.7 billion to transform the state’s transportation infrastructure. The State Department of Transportation is set to pave 2,000 miles of road and repair or rehabilitate 500 bridges, and the New York State Thruway Authority will renew an additional 170 lane miles, repair or rehabilitate 25 bridges and complete the new Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge in 2018.
Additionally, Cuomo indicated he wants to build the AirTrain to create train-to-plane access to LaGuardia Airport. The governor said he’s calling on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to expeditiously authorize the development of an AirTrain connection between LaGuardia and Willets Point, creating access to both the number 7 subway line and the Long Island Rail Road, which offer service to Grand Central, Penn Station and all of Long Island. The project is expected to be developed through a public-private partnership. The Port Authority will begin the environmental review process as soon as possible, with the goal of starting construction in 2019.
Cuomo pledged that New York will continue to expand access to affordable and quality health care while addressing the major health challenges facing the state’s communities today. The opioid epidemic has developed into a monumental health challenge facing myriad NY neighborhoods. To address the crisis, Cuomo said he will propose a comprehensive plan to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for perpetuating the epidemic; strengthen protections against addiction stemming from prescription opioids; take steps to eliminate insurance barriers to addiction treatment and recovery services; direct state agencies to implement regulatory and policy reforms that increase access to substance use disorder services; and advance legislation to add 11 fentanyl analogs to Schedule I of the controlled substance schedules of State Public Health Law.
We commend the governor for recognizing that this public health crisis – Superstorm Opioids – requires not only strong leadership but also significant action, stating that this pandemic of overdose and addiction to opioids must be addressed with a multi-prong approach that includes prevention, treatment, and recovery services,” said John Coppola, executive director of the New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers. “Moving forward, New York State must align our resources with the magnitude of this problem if we are to make real progress and save lives. Strengthening the prevention, treatment, and recovery workforce and increasing funds to support their efforts is critical to reducing the pain and suffering for families and communities across New York.”