An Ambitious 2012 Agenda for NY Gov. Cuomo
Yesterday Governor Andrew Cuomo welcomed his second year as New York’s highest official with the annual “State of the State” address. He began by recounting the momentous accomplishments of his first year in office, most notably the passage of marriage equality this past June and his success in pursuing a state personal income tax deal with legislative leaders. As 2012 commences, Gov. Cuomo is riding this wave of legislative accomplishments, not to mention an approval rating of 68% among New Yorkers and broad support across party lines. Outlining his agenda for 2012 in the State of the State address, Gov. Cuomo laid out a three-pronged plan that includes economic development, “re-imagined” government and New York’s vision for a progressive future.
1. Economic development
With unemployment in New York at 8% (compared to the national rate of 8.6%) and a $2 billion budget gap, Gov. Cuomo has a plan that he says will ensure economic prosperity and job creation. In his address, he announced a $1 billion grant to the city of Buffalo to invest in job creation and local economic development. Another $200 million will also be available in a second round of grants for other cities to engage in local economic development.
Last month, the governor and legislative leaders agreed to a deal that sets aside $1 billion to help fund infrastructure projects and repairs. The governor is hopeful that this fund will allow projects to occur on real time, not government time, because, as he said yesterday, “it can’t take three years to put a shovel in the ground.”
Also in his address, the governor publicly supported a broader legalization of casino gambling, which is projected to bring $1 billion of economic investment to the state. New York currently allows casino gambling at five Native American casinos and nine racetracks. Proponents of the expanded legalization hope that New York will be able to compete with neighboring states that do not have location restrictions on casino gambling.
2. “Re-imagining” government
Gov. Cuomo said he imagines a government that “performs better and costs less,” and he challenged lawmakers to close the budget gap with no new taxes and no new fees. He also spent a large portion of his speech discussing public education – the governor declared, “Everyone in education has a lobby; the only group without lobbyists are the students. I’m taking a second job…I’m also going to be the students’ lobbyist.” This statement comes on the heels of his announcement of a bipartisan education reform commission with members appointed jointly with the state legislature. New York currently ranks first in the nation for education spending and 38th in graduation rates. Gov. Cuomo has been critical of schools that produce little to no improvement in student achievement and hopes to have a report from the commission to work towards solving that problem.
3. A vision for a progressive future
New York has long been a state of progressive change: It birthed the suffrage movement, ended slavery 30 years prior to the Emancipation Proclamation and declared independence from Great Britain before the Declaration of Independence was written. Gov. Cuomo is seeking to further New York’s long-standing tradition of championing important causes by calling for an end to finger-printing for food stamps, the passage of campaign finance reform legislation, and the expansion of a DNA database that has been successful in convicting criminals and exonerating the wrongly accused.
Gov. Cuomo ended his address with a raised voice and a confident demeanor as he proclaimed: “This year we learned to walk. Next year we’re going to run! 2012 is the year we’re going to make the Empire State the Empire State once again.”
RJV looks forward to working with Gov. Cuomo, state legislators, congregations and committed individuals throughout NY to realize our 2012 goals as a Reform Jewish community. Stay tuned for more information about RJV’s priorities and ways you can participate in state advocacy.