On Wednesday, January 4, Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered his 2012 State of the State Address to the people of New York. The Governor's second State of the State took place in the Empire State Plaza's Convention Center, much like 2011. By again choosing the Convention Center as the speech's location, it afforded more New Yorkers an opportunity to hear the Governor's address in person, an important gesture that can help foster greater openness and further connect the people to their government.
STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS HELPS SET THE LEGISLATIVE AGENDA FOR A NEW SESSION AND A NEW YEAR
Traditionally, the State of the State Address is when a Governor outlines their legislative agenda and priorities for a new session and a New Year. In this sense, the address paints a big picture in broad strokes, leaving many of the specific policy details - and, most importantly, the financial plan for how a Governor intends to pay for their proposals - for the Executive Budget unveiled mid-January. I attended the State of the State, as did my fellow Legislative Leaders, New York's statewide elected officials, members of the State Legislature and Judiciary. I wanted to hear firsthand which priorities the Governor would stress as we began the sophomore year of his tenure as New York's Chief Executive.
GOVERNOR'S SPEECH ECHOED MY POSITIVE MESSAGE OF "JOBS, JOBS, JOBS"
Much of the Governor's speech echoed my longtime, positive message of "jobs, jobs, jobs" for the more than 700,000 unemployed New Yorkers who are hurting and need our help. In this sense, the Governor's address hit the right themes - more jobs, more economic development, and more opportunities for all New Yorkers. All of this was well and good.
CONCERNS: FUNDING FOR FINGER LAKES, ROCHESTER AND OTHER REGIONS; AFFORDING A $25 BILLION PRICE TAG; LITTLE MENTION OF HIGH-TECH JOBS
However, some of the proposals - a multi-billion dollar convention center expansion down in New York City; a $1 billion renovation package for Buffalo and an estimated $25 billion price tag for all the initiatives outlined in the speech - will need careful evaluation in the days and weeks ahead. While I am all for our neighbors to the west receiving more support from Albany, I was concerned that our Finger Lakes community and the City of Rochester were not included.
Can you imagine the explosion of job creation and economic development that would happen if $1 billion was invested right here in the Finger Lakes? Likewise, consider what $1 billion could do to help Rochester - or Eastman Kodak. I am not alone in expressing these concerns: elected officials and advocates from our community, as well as New York's Southern Tier and North Country, spoke of the need to ensure that our state's economic development strategy is regionally-balanced and does not favor one region at the expense of others.
Another issue was the estimated $25 billion price tag of the speech's initiatives. With our state already facing a $3 billion budget deficit - on top of last year's $10 billion shortfall that we closed - where exactly would that $25 billion come from? Additionally, I was hoping to hear more proposals addressing the need for high-tech jobs in New York State and how our SUNY system can better partner with emerging high-tech industries. Such jobs represent the future of our economy and New York cannot afford to fall behind other states already making strategic investments in these areas.
PRIVATE SECTOR JOB CREATION, UNFUNDED MANDATE RELIEF AND REFORMING GOVERNMENT REMAIN PRIORITIES
While the Governor's speech struck many of the right notes, the critical mission of transforming New York and fixing our state government is far from finished - in fact, we have only just begun. We need more jobs and less government for a better New York. This session, this year, I believe we need to continue working together and finish the people's business that includes the following agenda:
Rebuild New York's economy, jumpstart economic development and focus on growing private sector jobs;
Deliver on the still unfulfilled promise of unfunded mandate relief for local governments and school districts;
Reform and redesign New York's Medicaid program that is the nation's costliest;
Institute a State spending cap;
Deliver tax relief and cut bureaucratic red tape for job creators;
Ensure low-wealth, high-need school districts have the support they need;
Invest in high-tech jobs, support R&D;
Hold the line: no new taxes, fees, surcharges or borrowing;
Restructure and redesign government by consolidating State Agencies and delivering high-quality customer service to all taxpayers;
Enact comprehensive pension reform; and
Demand a new culture in Albany of transparency, openness and accountability.
If we can fulfill these goals, not only will we witness an historic Legislative Session rivaling the successes of 2011, we will have taken a major step toward delivering a smaller, smarter, less intrusive state government worthy of the New Yorkers we serve.
As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic, or any other state-related matter should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, or e-mail me at email@example.com.