Gov. Cuomo Details Ambitious Empire State ‘Opportunity Agenda’

Gov. Cuomo Details Ambitious Empire State ‘Opportunity Agenda’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented his 2015 Opportunity Agenda last week in Albany. Photo Courtesy of the Governor's Office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented his 2015 Opportunity Agenda last week in Albany.
Photo Courtesy of the Governor’s Office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week outlined his sweeping “2015 Opportunity Agenda” in Albany.

Delivered at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center, Cuomo said his ambitious 66-proposal plan “is designed to restore economic opportunity, improve and reform our education system, and restore the public’s confidence and trust in our justice system. This plan is a bold and comprehensive package of legislative reforms, state actions, and public investments that will increase opportunity for all New Yorkers and keep the state moving forward.”

Calling small businesses “the lifeblood of our economy,” accounting for 43 percent of private-sector employment and 35 percent of private-sector wages in the state, Cuomo proposed to reduce the net income tax rate from 6.5 percent to 2.5 percent over a three-year period for small businesses that file under Article 9-A.

“I have said that our small businesses keep the local communities going because of their service, convenience, merchandise and job opportunities. We must do what we can to keep these businesses afloat,” said state Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach). “Gov. Cuomo’s proposed tax reduction will allow the small businesses to operate at a high efficiency and continue to fuel our daily lives.”

Modernizing area airports is another significant economic proposal in Cuomo’s Opportunity Agenda. Citing John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports’ consistent rating among the worst “in the country in terms of design and overall passenger experience,” Cuomo announced that, in addition to modernizing airport facilities, “the state will also improve access by creating an AirTrain to LaGuardia that directly connects to the subway and Long Island Rail Road at Mets-Willets Point Station.” The AirTrain would be constructed by the Port Authority and Metropolitan Transportation Authority at an estimated cost of $450 million, Cuomo added.

Characterizing education as “the great equalizer,” Cuomo detailed a reform agenda that he said seeks to professionalize teaching, support teachers and increase standards; strengthen teacher evaluations; reward high performing teachers with performance pay; transform the state’s failing schools; expeditiously but fairly remove ineffective teachers; expand charter schools; pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act and ETC; extend Mayoral Control; continue support for 4-year-old pre-K; initiate 3-year-old pre-K; launch the NY Mentoring Commission.

If the Legislature passes his education reforms, Cuomo said he will propose an increase in state support to the highest level ever—an increase of 4.8 percent, or $1.1 billion.

To restore trust and respect between community and law enforcement, Cuomo proposed a number of recommendations, including: Create a statewide Reconciliation Commission to address police/community relations in affected neighborhoods; recruit more minorities into law enforcement; obtain and make publicly available race and ethnic data on summonses, misdemeanors, and other police actions statewide; fund replacement vests, body cameras and bullet-proof glass for patrol cars in high-crime areas; District Attorneys may issue a grand jury report or a letter of fact in police cases where an unarmed civilian dies and the case is not presented to the grand jury or the grand jury fails to indict; the governor will appoint an Independent Monitor to review police cases where an unarmed civilian dies and the case is not presented to the grand jury, or the grand jury fails to indict. In those cases, the monitor can recommend to the governor the appointment of a special prosecutor; the Independent Monitor will have access to police files and grand jury information, which will be protected.

“The governor has my full support on his proposed grand jury reform involving police encounters involving unarmed civilians,” said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. “It provides the transparency to which the public is entitled while maintaining the integrity of the grand jury process.”

By Michael V. Cusenza


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