The Remarks of Speaker Sheldon Silver

State Of The State Presentation

Empire State Plaza Convention Center
Wednesday, January 4, 2012

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Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver delivers remarks prior to Governor Andrew Cuomo's 2012 State of the State Address, announcing that raising the minimum wage, cutting taxes for the working poor, and investing in the state's community colleges are the top priorities for the Assembly Majority in the upcoming legislative session.

Thank you very much, Lieutenant Governor, for your kind words and for the job you have done in this outstanding first year as our Lieutenant Governor.

Governor Cuomo. Lieutenant Governor Duffy. Senator Skelos. Attorney General Schneiderman. Comptroller DiNapoli. Distinguished Guests. Citizens of the Great State of New York.

May I offer the very best wishes of the members of the New York State Assembly for a new year that is peaceful and prosperous.

Governor Cuomo, clearly you have emerged as the most effective state chief executive in our nation today.

With your leadership and by working together, we have taken significant strides toward improving government and bolstering our economy.

We instituted a property tax cap and revised our income tax schedule to make it more progressive.

We reached an historic agreement with the world's largest semiconductor manufacturers which will retain or create nearly 7,000 jobs and we are investing $785 million in job-creating projects throughout the state thanks to our regional economic development councils headed by our Lieutenant Governor.

Governor, we in the Assembly look forward to working with you, with Senator Skelos and with our colleagues in the Senate to build upon the achievements of 2011, and to move our state further down the path to prosperity.

Ensuring that all New Yorkers are able to travel that path remains a prime concern of the Assembly Majority.

In recent years, the ladder to success has fallen into disrepair and our middle class is dwindling.

We must take it upon ourselves to rebuild this ladder, which generations of New Yorkers have tirelessly climbed to attain financial security.

To strengthen its first rung, I will ask the Assembly Majority to establish as a top priority - and to pass - legislation to raise the minimum wage, which has increased just ten cents in the last six years.

Frankly, it is absurd to expect anyone - let alone a working family - to afford the cost of living today and be able to invest in their future on a salary of $7.25 an hour; or $15,000 a year.

Increasing the minimum wage would benefit more than 1.2 million workers, or 14-percent of our workforce.

Right now, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and 15 other states have higher minimum wage rates than does New York State.

We should be leading the pack, not lagging behind it.

The second rung of the ladder to economic security is making sure that low-income workers can keep more of their hard-earned paychecks.

To that end, the Assembly Majority will act to provide tax relief for the working poor.

Under our plan, working families who earn less than $30,000 annually will see their income taxes cut. Working families who earn less that $25,000 will pay no taxes at all.

As with the payroll tax recently enacted by Congress, these tax cuts will not only help working families improve their quality of living, they will boost our economy by putting money into circulation and having it spent immediately.

Education, it is said, is the great equalizer and for this reason, the Assembly Majority has been a longtime champion of educational investment.

To strengthen the third rung of the ladder, we are proposing to increase the state's support for our community colleges.

With high unemployment and widespread under employment, more and more of our citizens are looking to community colleges for a new path to a better life.

By law, this state is obligated to fund up to 40-percent of the operational budgets of our community colleges, but only once in four decades has the state fully met that obligation.

Now, when these learning centers are so important to our economy, to our companies and to our workers, we must increase our investment in them.

While we cannot erase years of middle-class erosion in one legislative session, we can and we will work in partnership with Governor Cuomo and with our colleagues in the Senate to strengthen the ladder so that future generations will be able to climb out of poverty and into financial security.

May it be our ongoing New Year's resolution to remain united in our commitment to keeping alive America's promise of a better life for every hardworking family, and a brighter future for each and every child.

Thank you.