Hello, I’m Governor Andrew Cuomo. Twenty months ago, you elected me to change New York: To clean up the mess in Albany, to make government work, and to make government work for the people once again. You elected me to make our state more business-friendly, create jobs, respect the taxpayer, and to restore New York as the progressive capital of the nation.
When I was sworn in last year I delivered my first State of the State address, I said at that time that New York was at a crossroads. Our state was struggling under the weight of a deep national recession, skyrocketing tax burdens, and a dysfunctional government. New Yorkers had lost trust in their state government. We were in a bad place there’s no doubt.
But I also said that there was a clear path forward for our state: one built on our legacy, our tenacity, and the quality of our people. I said that it wouldn’t be easy; in fact, that it would be hard. But that I believed we could put our politics aside, find the commonality, get things done, and rebuild our state from the ground up.
Last year was step one. It was about stabilizing the state and ending the dysfunction in Albany. We started with dramatic reforms that were long overdue:
We brought relief to taxpayers, finally enacting a property tax cap to curb the never-ending increases that made New York State one of the highest property tax states in the nation. We reformed our Medicaid program, we reorganized state agencies, and we passed an ethics law bringing accountability to Albany. Moreover, we restored competence to state government by passing an on-time budget and closing a $10 billion shortfall without any new taxes, fees, or gimmicks.
This year was step two. With the government working again, we set out to create jobs and get our economy running.
We took a new approach with an activist, aggressive focus on building and growing business. We began by removing obstacles to growth and getting taxes under control. We cut taxes on the middle class to the lowest rates in 58 years – not since Tom Dewey was governor and Jackie Robinson was a Brooklyn Dodger was the middle class tax rate this low.
But removing obstacles and reining in taxes wasn’t enough. We also created powerful new incentives for the private sector to expand their business and to create new ones.
With our New York Works program, we are stimulating $20 billion of economic activity and creating tens of thousands of jobs. We engaged the private sector like never before, spurring private investment to rebuild our roads, our bridges, our water systems, our state parks, and our mass transit networks — New York is now open for business my friends.
But government must do more — it isn’t just about the economy. Government must tackle the problems that we cannot solve on our own. It must pursue our priorities as a society — like education, public safety, and protecting the environment.
That’s why we took bold steps to finally bring accountability to our schools with a statewide teacher evaluation system. That’s why we improved our higher education system with our NY SUNY2020 program, making our state universities incubators of academic excellence and economic growth. We made New York safer by building the most comprehensive DNA databank in the nation to solve and prevent violent crime. And we are addressing new challenges, putting standards in place to fight cyber bullying, an insidious problem affecting school-age children all across our state.
We have made protecting the environment a priority by starting a $100 million competitive grant program — “Cleaner, Greener Communities” — that will create green jobs and safeguard our vital natural resources.
But in this great state of New York we reach even higher — beyond the economy and beyond the essentials, we look to government for something even more. In New York State, the state government at its best raises the bar to new, aspirational heights. So, we also set out to restore New York to be the progressive leader, forging a vision for a better future, and speaking to our best values as a people and as a society.
That’s why we ended fingerprinting for people who are on food assistance — because poverty is not a crime — and in 2012, the family of New York will not allow anyone of its own to go hungry.
It’s why we are continuing major reforms to the criminal justice system, like closing 3,700 unnecessary prison beds and keeping juvenile offenders close to home in their own communities to receive the support they need.
It’s why we will continue the effort to bring rationality to our marijuana laws, and fairness to our “stop and frisk” police procedures.
It’s why we developed an inner-city youth jobs plan, because young minorities face a staggering 40% unemployment rate. And we want to make sure that at-risk kids don’t just get a job — but get the training and a chance for a lifelong career and a brighter future.
It’s why we are creating a Justice Center to protect vulnerable New Yorkers with special needs, and to finally put an end to the abuse and neglect that has gone on for too long.
It’s why we passed marriage equality, to end discrimination so that all New Yorkers — regardless of sexual orientation — are free to marry the person they love.
I think you’ll agree that the New York of today looks pretty different from the New York of 18 months ago — and that reflects the work of the 235th Legislature, the women and men of the State Senate and Assembly.
I believe the history books will show that this Legislative Session was among the most productive and broadest-reaching in modern political history. I heartily thank my colleagues in the Legislature for their great work and I applaud their leaders — Senator Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — for this productive partnership that is building a new New York and is making New York work once again.
And that, my friends, is the bottom line: Making New York work again.
A New York that WORKS for you.
A New York that WORKS for your family.
A New York that WORKS for business.
A New York that WORKS for labor.
A New York that WORKS for fairness, and justice and equality and community for all.
We have more to do there’s no doubt, but there is also no doubt after these past 18 months that I know we can do. I’m sure that working together we can and we will make New York the Empire State once again.
As always, I thank you for the honor and the privilege of serving you. I work to earn your trust and your confidence every day. Thank you and God bless.