Last week, I joined my legislative colleagues for Gov. George Patakiís State of the State address in which he laid out his vision for the future of our Empire State. In particular, the governor focused on points that are very important to the Finger Lakes Region and Central New York Ė building a stronger economy, reforming state government, reducing taxes, making our streets safer and our public schools the best.
The governor introduced the Strategic Partnership for Upstate Revitalization (SPUR), a seven-point plan that focuses on improving the upstate economy by encouraging agriculture, job creation and other economic growth.
Here in the Finger Lakes Region, we have witnessed what state-assisted economic development can do. Bass Pro Shop, the Ag Tech Park and the Infotonics Center of Excellence have all been a boon for the Finger Lakes economy, and thatís just the beginning. Gov. Pataki wants to expand the Empire Zone program so that new economic development opportunities and good paying jobs are located in our area. Expansion of the Empire Zone program is something that I also have been promoting, along with agricultural Empire Zones.
We must have real, substantive reform in Albany. For years, the Assembly Minority Conference has been pushing to reform state government. From reforming our public authorities and the state budget process to strengthening lobbying laws Ė we need reform. I will partner with my colleagues in the Assembly and Senate to fight for the reform that we need.
Our taxes need to be lower. The governor, in matching part of the Assembly Minority agenda for this year, laid out as a priority the expansion of the School Tax Relief (STAR) Program to help our seniors stay in their homes. STAR has done wonders for our community, but we should expand it and provide tax relief to as many New Yorkers as possible.
We are so fortunate to live in the safest large state in the nation. However, we need to take steps to ensure that New York remains safe. Operation IMPACT, a program started a few years ago to provide state police help to cities in need, has delivered the reduced crime rates it promised. The governor asked us to expand the program, and we should.
Ensuring a quality education must be a priority for this legislative session. In his message, the governor spoke of the need to fairly distribute additional state education funds. This is very important, and I will fight to ensure that upstate schools get a fair share of state education funding.
The governor laid out a positive plan, but he made it clear that we are facing tremendous challenges during this session. By working together we can achieve these goals. I am optimistic that we can improve the way state government functions and make our state a better place to live.
I wish you and your family a safe and prosperous 2005.