"New Yorkers can now look at Albany and see progress on historic initiatives, action on issues that have been left unresolved for decades, and a legislative session that delivered results. New Yorkers can have a renewed sense of pride and confidence in their state government. We must now seize this momentum and press forward to continue to make this government work for the people once again. I applaud the leadership of Senator Skelos and Speaker Silver and the members of the Legislature for passing these unprecedented reforms. I also thank the people of New York State for making their voices heard and being the driving force behind these actions."
- Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
- 6 Month Report
- Ethics Reform
- Mandate Relief
- Marriage Equality
- Power NY
- Property Tax Cap
- Recharge NY
- Rent Regulation
- SUNY 2020
Governor Cuomo achieved historic ethics reforms that will help bring integrity, accountability, unprecedented transparency, and public confidence back to New York State government.
The Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011 contains the most comprehensive ethics enhancements in modern history and will usher in a dramatic change in the way our government does business. Among many improvements, it requires state officials to disclose outside clients and customers to whom they provided services or acted to refer or solicit for their firms. It requires detailed disclosure of official’s income and assets. It creates a public “Project Sunlight” database of all individuals and firms that represent clients before state agencies in any matter, requires that all lobbyists and clients of lobbyists disclose all business relationships with public officials and broadens the definition of lobbying to increase oversight of lobbying behavior.
The bill creates a new Joint Commission on Public Ethics with investigative oversight over both the executive and legislative branches and lobbyists. Investigative findings will be made public so the people can judge whether the punishment fits the crime. The new commission will provide mandatory ethics training for executive and legislative branch employees, and lobbyists
The law also provides for pension forfeiture for public officials convicted of a felony related to their office.
After years of stalled reform efforts, the Legislature passed the Governor’s ethics package with overwhelming bipartisan support. By cleaning up Albany, Governor Cuomo is beginning a new era of transparency and accountability to repair the broken relationship between State government and the people it serves.
State mandates increase local government and school district costs and add to the increases in property taxes. Governor Cuomo has made reducing state mandates among his key priorities and the mandate relief package passed this session begins to give schools and local governments greater flexibility, improves services, and saves taxpayer money.
The relief efforts passed include a number of mandate reform recommendations that will benefit local governments, saving more than $125 million annually. In addition, the Governor will pursue recommendations reviewed by the Mandate Relief Redesign Team for regulatory reforms that will save local governments and schools more than $40 million annually. The mandate relief package:
• Establishes a combined Legislative and Executive Mandate Relief Council to refer unfunded mandates to the Legislature and agencies for modification or repeal
• Empowers local governments to petition the Council for permanent relief from burdensome or costly regulations
• Eases procurement requirements on local governments, allowing them to capture savings by joining on to federal and county contracts
• Expands the number and type of agreements that the Department of Transportation can enter into with municipalities
• Establishes clear authority for school districts to more efficiently manage their bus fleets
Despite New York’s proud legacy as a progressive leader, for too long, same-sex couples were denied rights that other New Yorkers took for granted, including more than a thousand federal and state rights.
Governor Cuomo believed legalizing same-sex marriage to be a matter of fairness, dignity and equal rights. He built an unprecedented bipartisan coalition of organizations and supporters, the Governor worked to build momentum in every region of this state - culminating in the passage of the Marriage Equality Act.
Now, same-sex couples who marry in New York have equal status under the law. With this historic victory, New York is the largest state in the nation to grant same-sex couples the freedom to marry.
The Marriage Equality Act also includes protections for religious entities, benevolent organizations or not-for-profit corporations that are operated, supervised or controlled by a religious entity, or their employees to protect them from having to perform marriage ceremonies or provide their facilities for marriage ceremonies, consistent with their religious principles.
The Power NY Act of 2011 will encourage investment in clean power plants, engage communities more fully in the siting process, and expand opportunities for homeowners and businesses to invest in energy efficiency under the "Green Jobs/Green New York" program.
After years of gridlock, this important measure has advanced with support from industry, environmental advocates, consumer groups, and labor and community organizations. The Power NY Act of 2011 will:
• Streamline the permitting process for power plants greater than 25 megawatts by creating a “one-stop” multi-agency siting board that will make siting decisions
• Empower communities to participate in the process by requiring power plant applicants to provide "intervener funding" for the community affected by the proposed plant to hire experts and lawyers
• Improve the environment and public health by requiring the siting board to determine whether a proposed facility will create a disproportionate environmental impact in a community and, if so, requiring applicant to minimize or avoid those impacts
• Reduce energy demand by allowing homeowners and businesses to pay back loans for energy efficiency upgrades using a surcharge on local utility bills
• Create jobs by encouraging investment in new power plants and energy- efficiency retrofits
For the first time in New York’s history, there will be a property tax cap to protect homeowners and businesses from skyrocketing property tax hikes. The property tax increases will be capped at 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less.
For more than 15 years, both houses of the Legislature along with three governors have talked about a property tax cap for New York's overburdened homeowners with no results. New York's property taxes are among the highest taxes in the nation:
• As a percentage of personal income, New York has the highest local taxes in the nation – 79 percent above the national average
• From 1998 to 2008, property tax levies in New York grew by more than 73 percent – more than twice the rate of inflation during that span
• Companies pay five times more in property taxes than they do in corporate taxes
• Meanwhile, New York – especially Upstate New York – continues to hemorrhage population and jobs at a greater rate than the national average
This cap, a hallmark of Governor Cuomo's campaign and a priority of his administration's first year, will finally deliver relief to millions of homeowners and business owners across the state who have been burdened by out-of-control property taxes.
Local communities and local voters could override the cap, but it would require a 60 percent vote on the budget for school boards or relevant legislative bodies.
This cap on property taxes includes safeguards to ensure delivery of critical services for New Yorkers. There will be limited exceptions to the cap, including:
• Judgments or court orders arising out of tort actions that exceed 5 percent of the localities' levy
• Certain growth in pension costs where the system's average rate increases by more than 2 percentage points from the previous year. The amount of contributions above the 2 percentage points will be excluded from the limit.
• Growth in tax levies due to economic development
The high cost of energy is one of the greatest barriers to creating or growing a business in New York State. To help reduce this problem, Governor Cuomo made improvements to the Power for Jobs Program which provided low-cost power to New York businesses in exchange for retaining and creating jobs. This revised program – Recharge NY – allows businesses to enter into seven-year contracts for discounted, market-priced power. New businesses are eligible for the program when power is available. This program is part of Governor Cuomo’s overall effort to protect existing jobs, attract new jobs, encourage new investment in the state, and grow New York’s tax base.
Governor Cuomo believes that affordable housing is essential to preserving our communities and protecting New York’s middle class. The rent regulations proposed by the Governor and passed by the Legislature give tenants the strongest rent regulations in nearly 40 years and protects more than 1 million New Yorkers from skyrocketing rent. Among the important pro-tenant changes, the measure raises the deregulation rent threshold for the first time since 1993 and raises the income threshold for the first time since 1997.
From 1994 to the present day, more than 238,000 apartments were removed from the rent regulation system, leaving middle class New Yorkers with fewer affordable housing options. Without this expanded bill, it is estimated that more than 100,000 additional apartments would be lost to decontrol in the next few years.
These regulations will ensure that these units will stay in the rent regulation system and remain available for hard-working New Yorkers. The new rent regulations, which will be in effect until 2015, include the following important pro-tenant changes:
• Raises the deregulation rent threshold from $2,000 to $2,500
• Raises the income threshold from $175,000 to $200,000
• Limits landlords to collect only one vacancy bonus per year, reducing the manipulation of leases in order to push units out of the system
• Changes how improvements are calculated and verified for individual apartments, which will reduce a landlord's ability to abuse these renovations as a tool to force units out of regulation.
The NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program – a joint program between the Governor and State University of New York (SUNY) – enhances the State University of New York’s academic mission, maintains academic affordability, and places college campuses across New York at the center of the state's regionally-based economic revitalization strategy.
The program supports bottom-up, individualized long-term economic development plans on SUNY campuses and the surrounding communities. Two of the four SUNY university centers have already presented their plans to Governor Cuomo's administration, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, and the Legislature:
• The University of Buffalo's UB 2020 plan has the potential to revitalize Western New York by creating jobs, breathing new life into the City of Buffalo, and helping its namesake university become one of the nation's leading public research institutions.
• Stony Brook's plan will use public-private partnerships to create thousands of jobs and reinvigorate the business climate across Nassau and Suffolk counties. In addition, it will ensure that Stony Brook becomes one of the country's most advanced public research facilities.
As part of the program, the NYSUNY 2020 plan will allow each SUNY and City University of New York (CUNY) campus to raise tuition by $300 per year for five years, For the past 20 years, the average annual SUNY tuition increase has been 6.7 percent, well above the five-year, $300 increases included in this legislation. During that time, there were periods without tuition increases followed by sudden and dramatic tuition spikes of up to 40 percent. This plan replaces this unpredictable situation with a rational and predictable approach allowing students and families to properly plan for the cost of a college education for the first time in New York’s history.
The modest increases will help build these institutions into regional economic development generators and world-class centers of research and innovation. It will also allow schools to add more faculty, educate additional students, increase class offerings and improve graduation rates.
Also for the first time, SUNY and CUNY will guarantee tuition credits or discounts to students least able to afford tuition payments. In order to maintain affordability and access to higher education, the legislation provides tuition credits to students who are eligible to receive a Tuition Assistance Program award.