BY JANIE ROSMAN
Calling the New NY Bridge project “a daily reminder of what we can do when we work together and believe in ourselves,” Governor Andrew Cuomo told the business and government community last week at Pascack Community Center, “What I’m trying to do is build on the progress, energy and momentum of the past few years.
Figures are impressive. State unemployment, close to 9 percent four years ago, is now 5.8 percent. New York State had its lowest credit rating in four years; last June, Moody’s Investors Service upgraded the state’s credit rating to the highest its given the state since 1964. Cuomo’s talk outlined four points:
The state created more than 500,000 jobs during his first term, and went from 6.8 percent annual spending to 1.3 percent. “That differential can be given back in tax cuts to change the momentum of the state,” Cuomo said. Cutting taxes from 6.5 percent to 2.5 percent, the lowest tax rate in 100 years, will help relieve financial pressure.
“The statewide property tax is $50 billion, and income in business tax is $40 billion,” he said. Residents pay the highest property taxes in the nation. In 2011, Cuomo capped it at 2 percent, down from 6 percent, annually, last year froze it. He’d cut property taxes, saving 1.3 million homeowners roughly $1,000 per household, and will extend the savings to renters.
Start- UP NY, the state’s geographic zones that are entrepreneurial zones for new businesses will pay no state taxes for 10 years, Cuomo said. Pooling $500 million from private sector companies and $500 million from the state will ensure the entire state has 100 percent hi-speed broadband by 2018 New York State.
Citing John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport as two underdeveloped sites, Cuomo said he wants the state to “take over control of the airports from the Port Authority, do what we did with the Tappan Zee Bridge.”
Stewart Airport would become a tax-free zone “so businesses will have a reason to locate there,” and move some cargo business from JFK to Stewart and Republic Airport in Long Island.
Cuomo reiterated his plan to use $1.2 billion from surplus funds to offset construction costs of Tappan Zee Bridge, and set $50 million towards a farm preservation fund and $20 million to protect farmland in the Hudson Valley. Raising the minimum wage two years ago wasn’t enough; Cuomo wants to raise it again to $10.50 per hour.
There’s been “great progress, and also a shadow,” he said, referring to recent scandals in Albany. “These don’t stop. We need to solve to have a relationship with citizens.” His ethics reform proposal requires “campaign finance disclosure, pension forfeiture for legislators who commit felonies and legislators’ per diem reductions so they don’t make money by traveling to Albany.”
I want to have ultimate disclosure to “stop the use of campaign funds for personal expenses,” Cuomo said. A part-time legislator who is a lawyer must disclose what income comes from where (from legislative duties or private business).
New York State has more colleges under investigation for sexual assault than any other state, he said, “partially because the state has more colleges, and partially because the state has been “sweeping it under the rug.”
Cuomo wants to bring a program started last year in SUNY schools statewide. “It has two components: both parties to a sexual relationship have to affirmatively consent to the relationship, and if a woman was the victim of a sexual assault, then she the right to go to law enforcement,” and does not have to go to campus security.
“This is not a private matter, and the woman need not feel ashamed (although) campuses may want to keep it a secret.” Cuomo wants a law to make this applicable to any college in the state.
Reforms include funding education for new teachers. “If you are willing to give us five years as a public school teacher, we will pay for your education in the SUNY system if you are a top graduate.” Existing teachers will be evaluated by an improved system, and high-performing teachers will be rewarded by $20,000 bonus from the state “on top of what they get paid by the district.”
Teachers who are in the middle or struggling will receive support services, and if they continue to be ineffective after being evaluated, then they will be removed from their jobs.
Of the state’s 178 failing schools, 77 of them have been failing for more than 10 years. Schools failing for more than three years will get a new management system — turn it into a not-for-profit, turn it into a charter school, let the state take it over, turn it over to another school district.
The state started a universal pre-K program for four-year-olds, and currently making it statewide; he wants to start this for three-year-olds. New York State would be the first state in the nation to have this for both ages, and would transform the education system. “The state budget included a 1.7 percent increase for education,” the governor would increase it to 4.8 percent to be $1 billion statewide for education.
With a nod to the weather, Cuomo said it’s essential for local, town, county, and state governments to have an online system with a sophisticated weather detection system.