Governor Andrew Cuomo presented his annual "State of the State" address yesterday at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany. Here are our immediate relevant take-aways and what transpired from his address:
• In the past, Cuomo merged the State of the State with the release of the Executive Budget in his address to the public and the legislature. This time, however, there was no presentation of the budget. While there were hints about his thinking sprinkled in the State of the State, everyone was left wondering what exactly the Governor will do to address the huge $6 billion shortfall. In conversations with elected officials and their staff, it was clear to me that nobody knows when precisely the budget will be released, although the legal deadline for submission is February 1st. • There will be no new taxes in his proposed budget. He made several references to tax cuts he had enacted during his administration, and took great pride in those reductions and pitched them as achievements. These included a local property tax freeze and cuts to income tax rates for individuals and companies. We know that the Senate and Assembly Democrats have developed a list of potential revenue raisers - it appears on the surface the Governor was signaling his reluctance to approach the budget from this angle.
• He raised the spectre of another MRT-like approach to Medicaid reform. And he also raised the possibility of re-shifting some of the Medicaid costs burden back onto local/county governments. Several comments in this area lead many to believe this is the direction he's going: "For six years, we have been paying all of the increased costs in local Medicaid spending and holding local governments harmless." and "MRT made Medicaid better than ever before, and we will do it again this year." • The theme of the Governor's address was "Making Progress Happen," which amounted to a laundry list of achievements in the Empire State over the past few years including highlights of 2019. There was a strong political and social message in his speech: the rising tide of bigotry and hatred, and that New York must lead the way in showing a better way forward united as a society of all different backgrounds. While we didn't count the number of times the word "progressive" was used we noticed it was significantly mentioned nearly 30 times.
• The governor spent a great deal of his speech highlighting past achievements - upstate redevelopment, environmental protection actions, gay marriage, reproductive rights, paid leave, new bridges, new airports, etc. Below is a list of items he attached as next on his Progressive agenda:
1 - Preventing Individuals Who Commit a Serious Crime in Another State from Owning a Gun in New York 2 - Banning Fentanyl Analogs to Further Combat the Opioid Epidemic 3 - Mandating Automatic Manual Recounts in Close Elections 4 - Closing the Rape Intoxication Loophole 5 - Banning the Use of Single-Use Styrofoam Food Containers in New York State 6 - Lowering Prescription Drug Prices for All New Yorkers through Comprehensive Three-Part Plan 7 - Advancing the Strongest Net Neutrality Protections in the United States 8 - Protecting Consumers from Abusive Debt Collectors 9 - Cracking Down on Retailers Who Sell Illegal Cigarettes 10 - Eliminating the Pink Tax 11 - Legislation to Prevent Sexual Predators from Using Social Media, Dating Apps and Video Games to Exploit Children 12 - Making The "New York Buy American" Act Permanent 13 - Developing an Innovative Strategy to Build High Speed Rail in New York 14 - Increasing Transparency in Healthcare Costs 15 - Legislation Banning Flavored Nicotine Vaping Products and Vaping Ads Aimed at Youth 16 - Legalizing Gestational Surrogacy 17 - Combating the Scourge of Robocalls 18 - Banning Untraceable "Ghost Guns" by Requiring Firearm Parts be Treated as Guns and have a Serial Number 19 - Growing New York's Craft Beverage Manufacturing Industry by Reforming Antiquated Prohibition Era Laws 20 - Passing the First-in-the-Nation Inclusive Equal Rights Amendment 21 - Expanding Access to Safe and Affordable Financial Services 22 - Preserving 4,000 Acres of Land in the Mid-Hudson Valley 23 - Investing $9 Million in Unmanned Aerial System Experimentation and Test Facility at Griffiss International Airport 24 - Industry-Leading High Technology Companies to Create More Than 700 Jobs in and Near Rochester's Downtown Innovation Zone 25 - Protecting the Health of Lake George's Waters 26 - Rebuilding the Mid-Station Lodge at Whiteface Mountain 27 - Transferring Pier 76 Tow Pound to Hudson River Park for Reuse 28 - Transforming Buffalo's North Aud Block 29 - $300 Million Plan to Reimagine the Iconic Erie Canal 30 - Creating a 21st Century Empire Station Complex in Manhattan 31 - Creating the State's First Comprehensive Education and Workforce Training Center in Syracuse 32 - Expanding New York's $175 Million Workforce Development Initiative to Meet Emerging Job Demand