Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today continued his "People First Campaign" at Mohawk Valley Community College, where he outlined his legislative priorities and told Oneida County residents that their voices must be heard in order to get Albany to act on these key reforms.
Earlier this month, Governor Cuomo and his senior staff began a statewide tour in order to speak directly to the people of New York about, among other issues, creating a property tax cap, cleaning up Albany by passing ethics reform, and passing a marriage equality bill. Governor Cuomo said that all of these issues must be addressed during the current legislative session and asked New Yorkers to call their legislators and urge them to act
"Real reform begins with the people, and that is why my team continues to travel the state to bring our message to as many New Yorkers as possible as we build a coalition for change," Governor Cuomo said. "We need stronger ethics oversight in Albany, a property tax cap that will help our families and businesses, and marriage equality for all. If we work together and speak with one voice, we can bring true change to New York."
The Governor's People First campaign focuses on three specific legislative priorities:
Property Tax Cap:
New Yorkers pay among the highest property taxes in the nation, forcing families to sell their homes and move out of state. Massive property tax increases also discourage businesses from investing and creating jobs. In the last decade, property taxes have increased a staggering 73 percent – that's twice the rate of inflation.
Governor Cuomo has proposed a comprehensive tax cap that would control property taxes. Under his plan:
- Local school districts and governments could only raise property taxes each year by 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less.
- All governments would be included under this plan, and few exemptions would be allowed.
- Local communities and local voters would retain control, however, and could override the cap. For school boards it would require a 60 percent vote on the budget and for non-school boards it would require a two-thirds vote of the responsible legislative body.
Ultimately, the property tax cap would give much-needed relief to New York taxpayers and encourage local governments and school districts to be more efficient and make the most of their resources.
Frank Elias III, President of the Mohawk Valley Chamber of Commerce, said, "Property taxes crush businesses across New York and relief is desperately needed if we are going to reinvigorate our private sector economy. As Governor Cuomo has said, New York has no future as the tax capital of the nation. His plan to rein in property taxes will allow businesses to grow, add jobs, and is exactly what the people in Utica and across the Mohawk Valley need. We are proud to support Governor Cuomo’s efforts in bringing these much needed reforms to Albany."
New York State government used to be a symbol of integrity and performance, but we have lost that standard. To clean up the government and restore trust with New Yorkers, we need to pass a new ethics law that mandates transparency and full disclosure as well as a law that calls for a real independent monitor.
Among many reforms, the Governor's ethics reform agenda would:
- Require disclosure of clients doing business with the state that are represented by legislators before the state and disclosure of how much they get paid.
- Require the creation of an independent body to provide oversight and enforcement of ethics rules because, as we have seen in the past, self-policing does not work.
- Require lobbyists to disclose any business relationship with legislators in excess of $1,000.
- Strip pensions from those public officials convicted of a felony related to the abuse of their official duties.
Donna Gillette, former Co-President and current Board Director of the League of Women Voters of Utica/Rome, said, "League members strongly support Governor Cuomo’s push for comprehensive ethics reform this legislative term. In order to have "sweeping ethics reform", independent strong oversight and greater transparency are both crucial. Adequate disclosure of legislators’ outside business interests as well as their relationships with lobbyists must be strictly regulated and severe penalties levied for those who fail to comply. “
Despite our state's proud tradition as the progressive capital of the nation, on the issue of marriage equality, New York has sadly lagged behind. While gay and lesbian New Yorkers can drive to Massachusetts or Connecticut to be married, such marriages are not permitted in New York. In the face of New York's failure to act and to lead, states like New Hampshire, Iowa, Vermont, and the District of Columbia have all recognized the importance of marriage equality and now allow same-sex couples to marry.
Governor Cuomo has repeatedly said that it is time to for our state to retake our leading role in guaranteeing equal rights for all. This is about civil rights and equality. Denying marriage to all undermines the very dignity and legitimacy that our state routinely provides to other couples.
Barring marriage equality denies same-sex couples and their families over 1,000 federal and 700 state rights that are afforded to millions of New Yorkers. For instance, spouses have hospital visitation rights and can make medical decisions in the event of illness or disability. Employers offer spouses sick leave and bereavement leave as well as access to health insurance and pensions. Also, the law provides certain rights to a person's spouse regardless of whether or not a will exists. None of these rights exist for same-sex couples in the absence of marriage.
The Assembly has passed marriage equality legislation in previous legislative sessions but in 2009 the bill failed to pass the Senate.
Rev. Judith Westerhoff of the Moriah-Olivet United Presbyterian Church, said, “As pastor of Moriah Olivet Presbyterian Church (USA) in Utica, NY I am very pleased that the Governor is working towards marriage equality in New York State. Years ago we were asked to work toward equal rights in the civic arena for all, including our LGBT relatives, friends and strangers even though we were unable to see inequality in our church. I applaud the Governor’s legislative agenda and pray that his efforts will prevail.”
Governor Cuomo has repeatedly indicated that for real reform to occur in New York, he must make his case directly to the people of the state. Explaining the issues and maintaining an open dialogue allows New Yorkers to form an opinion, organize, and make Albany act.
Senator Joseph A. Griffo said, "I am pleased to welcome Governor Cuomo to the Utica area. I know that all levels of government must work as a team to accomplish the changes that all of us want in government, and I am very appreciative of the fact that the Governor has made it a priority to bring a spirit of cooperation and consultation to Albany, even in areas where there is disagreement. The past few weeks have shown that working together, we have all been able to find common ground on the issues facing this state. There is much more to be done, but I am sincerely grateful that the Governor and his staff value the input and opinions of all of us regardless of party affiliation."
David R. Roefaro, Mayor of Utica said, “Governor Cuomo’s ‘People First Campaign’ and his three pronged legislative agenda is a clear sign that New York is on the road to recovery. I not only support his initiatives, I’m working to educate others about them. As Andrew has shown us, recovery begins with getting government to work for the people, putting their interests first and outlining actions to reform the defunct operations of Albany. When it comes to keeping this recovery going- Andrew Cuomo is just what the doctor ordered.”
Randall J. VanWagoner, Ph.D., President of Mohawk Valley Community College said, "The students, faculty, staff, and neighbors of Mohawk Valley Community College are honored to host Governor Cuomo and his People First Campaign. We appreciate the Governor’s visible commitment to serving citizens across the state, including speaking directly with people here in the Mohawk Valley. MVCC is proud of its role as a venue for public discourse, so we welcome today’s conversation about legislative issues of importance for the people of our community and all of New York State."
For more information about the People First tour, visit www.NYPeopleFirst.com.