Today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivered his 2016 State of the State and Executive Budget Address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany. The theme of the Governor’s agenda for the year is “Built to Lead,” in recognition of New York’s heritage as a standard bearer throughout US history, the significant progress achieved in the state over the past five years, and New York’s inherent capacity to lead the nation in addressing some of today’s most pressing challenges.
Further information on the Governor’s State of the State, Budget Address and 2016 Agenda is available here. The Governor’s full 2016 Built to Lead Agenda policy book is available here.
VIDEO of the Governor’s address is available on YouTube here.
PHOTOS of the Governor’s address are available on the Governor’s Flickr page.
AUDIO of the Governor’s address is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor’s address is available below:
“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very, very much. Welcome to Albany. Good afternoon to all of you. Thank you very much for joining us today. First, for the people who put together that video, let’s give them a sign of appreciation. That was a job very well done. To our great Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul who has been all over the state, she’s doing a magnificent job. She had big shoes to fill after Bob Duffy. I don’t know that she literally filled his shoes, but she’s doing a great job. We miss Bob Duffy, still – Bob Duffy.
To the Members of the Court of Appeals who are led by Acting Chief Judge Eugene Pigott. It’s a pleasure to be with you, judge and the Court.
We lost a great judge and a great New Yorker who was a pioneer in many, many ways. First female to head the Court of Appeals. It’s Judge Kay, obviously and I ask a moment of silence as we remember Judge Kaye. Thank you.
To our great Attorney General Eric Schneiderman who has had a great year. Attorney General, it’s a pleasure to be with you. Likewise, with Comptroller Tom DiNapoli who has had a blockbuster year. Thank you very much, Tom for your public service.
And to my colleagues from the Legislature. Last night, President Obama was speaking to the nation about the political divisions and how harmful they are. In New York we have political differences, but we don’t have political divisions. And that’s all the difference in the world. And that why this government has continued to work and that’s why this government has continued to progress so thank you for that.
Let’s start with Minority Leader Brian Kolb. Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein. Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins. Speaker Carl Heastie. Majority Leader John Flanagan.
We’re also lucky today to be joined by the New York Mets who had a fantastic season. We have Jeff Wilpon, and the Mets’ manager Terry Collins and we’d like to thank them for their good work. You made us all proud. Thank you for being here.
Well it is my pleasure to call the 239th legislature to order. In our five years we have accomplished much, after many, many bad years for the state we love, the arrows are finally pointed in the right direction.
Government, as you know, is ultimately about results and you delivered. You made this state a better state. And what’s what government is all about and congratulations to each and every one of you.
But with all that we’ve done, we are not immune to the problems vexing our nation. Crumbling infrastructure, a slow economic recovery, the unambiguous reality that climate change threatens the very way of life, a growing specter of terrorism, homelessness, an ever widening gap between the wealthy and everyone else, political polarization and government gridlock. All challenged issues to be sure.
But thanks to the people in this room we have a government that is built to lead. These problems may have confounded other states and the federal government, but I know New York must and can address them.
The state of the state, my friends, is strong. Today I am proud to report to the 239th legislature that we stand stronger than at any point in recent history. The Empire State is poised to grow and to lead.
While our challenges are daunting because of what this body has accomplished in the past, it should give all of us great hope for the future.
As President Clinton liked to say, ‘we brought arithmetic to our government.’ We limited the state’s new spending to less than 2-percent a year. We passed a 2-percent property tax cap that has brought welcome relief to the citizens of our state and we have cut income, corporate and estate taxes. In total, we have reduced the tax burden on New Yorkers by $114 billion dollars.
Why is that important? Because reducing taxes is part of our strategy to create jobs, and when you’re creating jobs, you’re creating opportunity and you’re creating hope and you’re creating progress and it is working here in New York. Unemployment is down from 8 percent to 4.8 percent and today New York State has more private sector jobs than ever before in the history of the state of New York– 7.9 million. From Montauk to Niagara Falls, the New York economy is on the rebound.
Our economic success was matched with an uncommon partner, namely unprecedented social progress. In the past, our government offered a Sophie’s choice: it embraced either fiscal responsibility or social progress – one or the other. We said we could do both. We said we could bring fiscal responsibility to the state and we could also be the nation’s progressive leader: a beacon for social justice and fairness.
And we did it. And we were right to do it. And we were right when we showed this nation true leadership and passed marriage equality; and we were right when we stood up for the women of this state and we passed the Women’s Equality Act; and we were right when we passed the most aggressive law stopping sexual violence on college campuses in the nation; and we were right when we stopped fingerprinting for food; and we were right when we led the way on climate change; and we were right when we stopped discrimination based on sexual identity; and we were right when we passed commonsense gun safety laws. New York now has the smartest gun laws in the nation. And remember this, since Sandy Hook, when we passed our gun control law, we have had fewer gun deaths in the state of New York thanks to your good work.
That is leadership.
Fiscally responsible Democrats, people said were impossible. Socially progressive Republicans, people said were impossible. These legislators acted responsibly and we reached compromise and we showed that that can happen. And we didn’t listen to the zealots and we didn’t listen to the extremists and we didn’t list to the naysayers. We governed, we came together, we refused to be intimidated, we refused to be shouted down. We said we are New Yorkers first and we are coming to come together and we are going to kick the extremists to the side and we are taking this state forward on what’s good for the state of New York., and just because you yell, doesn’t mean you’re right. And just because you stand, doesn’t mean you’re correct. That’s what this legislature is all about.
Now, going forward, we must continue our laser focus on reinvigorating the state’s economy, because that is the engine that pulls the train, and remember, my friends, when you are helping the economy you are helping everyone because the best social program is still a job.
We charted a new path and it is working. New York is on the move and we have just begun. Building forward starts with maintaining our fiscal discipline.
I will submit a $145 billion budget that spends an additional 1.7-percent – less than our 2-percent spending limit.
To stimulate economic growth I propose a tax cut for small businesses because that is the engine that is driving the economy. 97 percent of all businesses in New York employ fewer than 100 people – that’s 3.4 million employees working in small businesses. I propose a $300 million tax cut that will reduce the rate from 6.5 to 4-percent, plus a 15-percent income exemption for partnerships and s-corporations. That’s a tax reduction for one million small companies and another clear signal that New York is open for business.
At the same time, we will continue to reduce the mandates and their cost to the locality. The largest mandate is the Medicaid program. Three years ago we capped the increase in cost to the locality. Localities are now held harmless. Since then, the state has assumed approximately $3 billion in costs from the counties. I believe the state should continue to cap the growth and assume the cost as long as the local government adheres to our 2-percent cap.
Remember, my friends, the property tax is the killer tax in this state and it has been for a long time. It’s nothing new. List to what FDR said, and I quote, “The public is at last coming to realize that the increase in real estate taxes is due wholly to the increase in the cost of local and not State Government. These taxes on real estate are too high… Local government has in most communities been guilty of great waste and duplication.”
The cost, the waste, the inefficiency of our 10,500 local governments is still this state’s financial albatross and that is what is driving up the cost. Consolidation, shared services, local efficiencies must be a top priority and we must encourage those choices by framing the true economic realities for local governments. Local governments must be sustainable from a financial point of view. That is the clear economic truth and that is what we have to work towards.
Controlling spending and reducing taxes will continue our growth but we can do even more. Our state’s founding fathers’ and founding mothers’ early vision and daring was really breathtaking. Their boldness in constructing our transportation and infrastructure made this state the success it is today.
The tallest buildings, the longest bridges, the deepest tunnels – they never said quit. Now it’s our turn, my friends. We must provide the vision and the daring for the next generation. To continue to grow in size and strength, we must develop a new interconnected, planned system of mass transportation, roads and bridges and airports for the next 100 years. We can and we will.
I propose the New York: Built to Lead program. It is a development initiative that would make Governor Rockefeller jealous. A $100 billion investment in transformative projects statewide.
All experts are unanimous that investment today in the infrastructure of tomorrow creates jobs and builds economic strength. In Washington, both sides agree. However, like so many issues, Washington just can’t get it done. In New York, we can and we will.
Our new Tappan Zee Bridge is an exciting symbol of what we can accomplish. A bridge that other administrations couldn’t even begin, is now moving forward. It’s rising from the Hudson like our aspiration is rising for this state.
Let’s take a moment and recognize some of the daring men and women who are working on the Tappan Zee Bridge in the winter, when it’s cold, under dangerous circumstances and are doing a great job. They’re here today. We’ll ask them to stand and show them our appreciation.
The New York Built to lead program will begin by ensuring New York remains an international destination at the cutting edge of air travel.
Downstate New York we will build a new airport to replace the outdated LaGuardia. Not rebuilding what was, but building a whole new state of the art airport. It will be the first new airport in the United States in over 20 years and New York will lead the way again.
This year we will also present a new vision for the current maze of terminals at Kennedy Airport and we will also continue our development of Republic and Stewart Airports.
I also propose $6 million in this budget to build a customs center to make MacArthur Airport on Long Island a real international hub once and for all. This will reduce the air demands on LaGuardia and Kennedy and increase economic activity on Long Island.
But mass transportation is the key if our region is to grow in size and strength. If our regions are going to grow, it must be through mass transit. We must move more commuters faster with less damage to the environment. A record $26 billion investment in the MTA, buying 1,400 new subway cars and 3,100 new buses, will reinvent the commuting experience. Likewise, $5.6 billion invested in the LIRR, and $3 billion invested in Metro-North will improve the system’s comfort, safety and reliability.
Our $20 billion Gateway Partnership – a project long overdue – is now a reality – it is a coordinated effort among the federal government, New Jersey and New York. It will build a new rail tunnel – the first in one hundred years – and it will speed commuters from the west.
From the east, the commute from Long Island to New York City is one of the worst commutes in the nation. We need to add a third track to the Long Island rail system so we can expedite commuters and promote intra-island transit.
The main mass transportation access point in New York City is Penn Station. Penn Station is grossly over capacity and underperforming.
Penn is, in a word: miserable. Amtrak owns it. It is un-New York, it is unwelcoming and it is unacceptable.
If Vice President Biden was critical of LaGuardia Airport, we’re only lucky he didn’t take a train and end at Penn. I can only imagine what he would have said. But we won’t give him the chance. We will build a new Penn Moynihan complex, finally.
New York State did a great thing in 1986 when it opened the Jacob Javits Convention Center which attracted thousands and thousands transcripts on New York. But it is no longer competitive for many of the big shows. It’s too small and its configuration is not conducive to the exhibitions of today. We will add one million square feet to the Convention Center, and remove thousands of trucks and their diesel fumes that currently line up along Manhattan’s West Side. It’s going to be a boon to the economy, a benefit to the environment and it’s going to be self-financed by the Javits Center. That’s what I call a win-win-win.
Now, upstate New York must remain an economic priority. The cold truth is that this state government shortchanged upstate New York for many years. And that was short sighted. Not only are we one New York family, but we are one New York balance sheet and upstate growth means a stronger economy for all. I propose a record $20 billion economic development program to grow the momentum in upstate New York.
One of the heavy costs for upstate businesses and citizens are the tolls that we impose on the New York State Thruway. Now as you know, the New York State Thruway was paid off in 1996, but the tolls have continued. I propose we set aside $1 billion of our settlement funds as a reserve fund to maintain and improve the Thruway system. It will also allow us to freeze tolls for all users until 2020. We can also cut tolls by half for all frequent users, and – listen to this – eliminate all tolls for our agriculture sector which has been struggling for many, many years.
This will show upstate businesses and citizens that we are on their side. We owe it to them. Let’s do it and let’s do it this year.
Upstate’s roads and bridges, broadband and other infrastructure must be upgraded also. I propose the largest roads and bridges investment in history– a $22 billion, five-year investment – achieving parity with downstate.
I also propose $250 million necessary to assist local governments in rebuilding their water and sewer infrastructure. It’s not fancy but it’s necessary.
The Regional Councils are producing dividends. Today there are more than 4,000 economic development projects underway thanks to their work. I propose another round of REDCs – our sixth – for $750 million – to keep the momentum going. Our REDC partnerships have created or retained 165,000 jobs. Let’s give them a round of applause.
The I Love NY tourism campaigns have been a phenomenal success. We have invested $181 million in tourism over the past five years. That $181 million has seen tourism spending increase $8.5 billion and the total impact is now over $100 billion in tourism. I want to add another 10% to that budget for a total of $50.5 million because what we’ve learned is that when people see upstate New York they love upstate New York. So we just have to keep them coming and the I Love New York campaign is a way to do that.
This year we will continue our part by holding the Adirondack Challenge and we will add the Catskill Challenge to which you are all invited. I hope you all can make it.
Leader Flanagan appears physically fit and is legendary for being fast on his feet – I mean running. But we don’t yet know how he can handle the rough waters – I mean rafting. We will soon find out because I’m sure the Leader is going to come to both the Adirondack and the Catskill Challenge.
Speaker Heastie grew up near a river so he is the odds on favorite to win. I understand the speaker is wagering two to one odds on his victory. That’s Assembly confidence, for you. For those of you who wonder what river did the speaker grow up near, of course it’s the legendary Bronx River.
Our paradigm of entrepreneurial government is the way of the future. The regions of this nation that excel will be the most functional, creative public private-sector partnerships and New York is already leading the way.
We began in 2011 with our partnership to stimulate dairy production through our Greek yogurt industry expansion and it has worked. We now produce more Greek yogurt than Greece, believe it or not. And our dairy industry is booming because the yogurt companies are consuming all of the milk we’re producing. It has been a great victory and an important lesson, and besides having some cows suffering from sore udders, it has been a great, great success.
We can also toast our wine and beer initiatives. The number of wineries has increased four fold, breweries have increased six-fold and distilleries and cideries seven-fold. We have made it easier for these businesses to grow and do business by revising some of our laws. But we have to do even more. We have to overhaul the prohibition-era SLA laws that are way overdue and are an obstacle to growth and we have to do it this year.
This year I propose our most ambitious entrepreneurial partnerships that we are excited about.
The first deals with agriculture and food. As you know, agriculture is a critical part of our economy. As you also know, there is a growing health concern among consumers about the food we eat -- what is in it and how it was grown. There is a burgeoning market for safe, healthy food. However, consumer confidence is lacking. Many of the labels that are on those products are virtually meaningless and they have no standard and they have no legal definition. Labels like “all natural” or “no antibiotics” actually have no legal definition. Much of our quote-unquote organic produce comes from overseas. So consumer skepticism is justified. To reassure and inform consumers – and provide an opportunity for New York farms – we will initiate the first program to certify the bona fides of natural products.
The Departments of Health and Agriculture will define what are now vague standards and conduct inspections to certify those standards are being met. Labels like “all natural” will mean something. “No pesticides” will mean something. “Hormone free” will actually mean something. The Attorney General will police the program so consumers will know when they buy that product, they are getting exactly what that product says it is.
We are going to call it the “NY Certified High Quality” program. It will be voluntary for our farmers to participate but we will advertise this program and its products nation-wide and we think there is a significant marketing asset for the farms that participate. It’s an exciting opportunity. It can help grow our farms. Better products for our consumers. It’s exactly what we need. Let’s take a moment and say thanks to Commissioner Ball, Dr. Zucker and Attorney General Schneiderman.
Second partnership, the problem of climate change is finally being recognized by most world leaders, anyway. Here in New York we have already been actively working to address it. Now, New York State has a business and an environmental opportunity. Let’s become the international capital for clean and green energy products. We have already attracted some of the largest solar manufacturers on the planet to New York State. We’ve already attracted some of the biggest research and development firms on the planet to New York. I now propose a $15 million Clean Energy Opportunity Training Program so SUNY and our community colleges can train the workers with solar technology and installation.
I believe this is the economy of tomorrow and while we’re developing the business plan, we can also employ it in the state of New York. I propose installing solar in over 150,000 homes and businesses and converting SUNY facilities to renewable energy by the year 2020. We can do it and we should.
My friends, this is the path for the future to ensure that the planet has a future – let New York lead the way once again on this important topic.
We all realize that all of these new economic opportunities demand a world-class education. More and more, education is everything if you’re going to get ahead and do well in this economy. I believe in the promise of education and its potential to serve as the doorway to opportunity. For generations of New Yorkers, education has been the ladder to climb out of poverty. Today, the need for that ladder is greater than it has ever been.
To open the door of opportunity even wider, and provide the highest quality public education, my budget invests $6.9 billion in SUNY and CUNY. I also propose extending our highly successful SUNY and CUNY 2020 rational tuition and challenge grant program. Our goal is to make our public higher education system the envy of the country. I know we can. With Carl McCall and Chancellor Zimpher, that is exactly what we are going to do and we thank them for their leadership.
Likewise, we will not rest until our K-12 system is the best in the nation. Last year we made dramatic changes. We reduced testing, we increased parental participation and empowered local districts. These reforms were essential because we saw that parents were losing faith in the system. Roughly 20 percent of our students opted out of exams and in some districts it as high as 90 percent opted out. Simply put, the education system fails without parental trust. Our goal was to restore that trust and we said we would correct the State Education Department’s Common Core curriculum implementation mistakes and testing regimen. Time has shown that this was the right decision. We urge the State Education Department to do it right this time and we are all fully available to assist in and monitor in this effort.
It is also essential that our school districts have the necessary funds to do the job. I propose for this two-year cycle, $2.1 billion increase to $25 billion, the highest total spending on education in the history of the state of New York. With that funding increase I want to do two things:
First, once and for all, let’s end the Gap Elimination Adjustment. Second, let’s transform every failing school in the state of New York into a community school.
Our charter schools are public schools and serve some of our neediest students – more than 100,000 of them all across the state. Charters are an important option for parents in communities with failing schools and provide education laboratories. On average, charters are half the cost of public schools. They are an important component of our system and we continue to encourage their development in this budget.
We are also working to attract and keep the best public school teachers, many of whom work very hard under very difficult circumstances. Many teachers even go into their own pocket to pay for food and supplies for the students in their classroom. What a beautiful sign of dedication. But they shouldn’t have to bear that cost. They deserve our encouragement, support and gratitude. I propose a $200 tax credit to reimburse teachers for their expenses. They more than deserve it.
Protecting our environment is a top priority. The Native American proverb is true: “We don’t inherit the land from our parents. We are borrowing it from our children.” One of the most effective programs to make our state cleaner and greener is the Environmental Protection Fund. I propose raising the Environmental Protection Fund to the highest level in history -- $300 million.
We previously set a goal that 50 percent of New York’s energy must come from renewables by 2030. This year it’s no longer a goal – it is now a requirement. And it makes New York the nation’s leader in the fight against climate change and that’s something we should all be proud of.
Finally, we will eliminate all use of coal in New York State by 2020. We will help the few remaining coal plants transition but we must clean our air and protect our health and that must be our first priority.
When it comes to public safety, we have much work to do. In addition to what is now called extreme weather and the new normal, I’m sad to say that in many ways we have another new normal to confront and that is the widening threat of terrorism. San Bernadino, California, Rochester, New York. It can be Anywhere, USA, at anytime. The internet has opened a portal of hate. What was at one time largely confined to the Middle East can arrive here now with the click of a mouse. We must be diligent.
I propose $40 million to fund the permanent deployment of more New York State Troopers and National Guard at key target areas across the state because public safety must be our priority.
The State Police and the National Guard do an excellent job. They are out there when no one wants to be out there. They ae there when we have to rebuild after floods. They are there to keep us safe. We are blessed to have them. I ask them to stand and let’s give them a sign of our appreciation.
Last year I asked former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to do a security audit and tell us the best way to defend ourselves and the state’s counterterrorism operations. Commissioner Ray Kelly recommends moving the state’s counterterrorism operations to the New York State Police to improve intelligence sharing and reduce response time. I believe that recommendation makes sense. I’m going to recommend it in this budget and I want to thank Ray Kelly very much for his service.
Terrorist attacks no longer mean just airplanes and buildings. More and more, attacks include heavily armed individuals, active shooters in shopping malls, and even churches.
To ensure that our State Police have the right equipment to respond to these situations I propose $4 million to provide every on-duty uniformed State Trooper with better weapons, body armor and tactical helmets. They give their all for us. They deserve our support. Let’s give them the tools they need. Please rise while we take a moment to acknowledge you.
We are also joined today by New York State Troopers who conducted an around-the-clock search for the escapees of Dannemora. It was a truly difficult feat in difficult terrain that went on day after day, week after week. The climax of the event was a truly heroic event, where a single trooper confronted one of the escapes and it was just that trooper, and that escapee, a stone’s throw from the Canada State border. The New York State Trooper stepped up in the finest tradition of the New York State Police. His name is Sergeant Jay Cook and he is here today. We ask him to rise and let’s give him a round of applause.
Washington D.C. still can’t agree on the use of intelligence information concerning terrorists when it comes to gun background checks. This gridlock is not funny and it literally endangers our safety. I believe it is reckless and irresponsible not to share information about possible terrorists who are living or operating within our borders. New Yorkers are concerned and rightfully so. New York has had a history of being a target of terrorist attacks. Don’t tie one hand behind our back. Give us the access to the information because we have a right to defend ourselves.
This state's role as the progressive capital of the nation is important to me and should be important to every person in this room. Government’s ability to evolve and grow is essential. Everything is changing – faster than ever before – government must progress to stay relevant, not to mention lead.
Hubert Humphry said, and I quote, “The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the disabled.”
This state was one of the first in the nation to start universal Pre-K in 1966, believe it or not. Over 60 percent of our communities now participate. We must work to bring that number to 100 percent in our communities. In 2013, this Legislature took the next step by expanding to full day Pre-K, offering to local governments across the state including New York City. I propose $800 million in total funding so we can once again partner with our local communities and once again pay 100-percent of the cost because our children deserve the best.
New York’s economy is growing to be sure. But we must also ensure that the bright sunlight of economic opportunity reaches those who have been left too long in the shadows. We already have the highest MWBE goal in the nation – 30% – which is about $2 billion in economic opportunity for minority and women-owned businesses across the state. But our current goal only applies to our direct state contracts, not local government contracts. Compounding the omission is the fact that many local governments do not even have their own MWBE require or if they do, their goal is anemic at best. This must end now. I propose that our MWBE goals also apply to local government contracts funded by state dollars. This could triple our New York opportunity for minority- and women-owned business and it will lead the nation once again.
For all of our economic success there are still pockets of poverty that persist. The greatest feast has the most guests at the table. Our Rochester Anti-Poverty Initiative shows great promise. Deputy Leader Joe Morelle has been doing a great job and I would like to recognize him for his service. I am proposing $25 million to expand that initiative to the ten cities in upstate New York with the highest poverty rate. Let us commit ourselves to the principle that in our great state no child should have to worry about where his or her next meal is coming from. No child should live in poverty.
I was proud last year to appoint the Attorney General as a special prosecutor in cases where a police officer kills an unarmed civilian. It was a national precedent. The appointment of an unbiased, qualified individual has helped restore trust in our system and it literally helped to end demonstrations in our streets. I urge you to pass a law making this reform permanent. Assemblyman Keith Wright has advocated for such a law for over a decade. It is an historic achievement and it should not be left to my executive order. Make it yours – make it permanent – pass the bill. Let’s all give the Attorney General a round of applause for his great work.
One of our nation’s greatest challenges is stopping the cycle of incarceration. This nation incarcerates more people than any industrialized nation on the globe. Over 2.2 million people are in prison in this country. We are better at building and equipping a prison cell than a classroom. We are quicker to find a 16-year old a jail cell than a job interview and that is just wrong.
New York State is going the other way. I am proud to be the Governor who has closed more prisons than any governor in the state of New York. We have the most aggressive re-entry program in the country. We have a new conditional pardon program for youthful offenders. We are working to end warehousing in prisons and moving towards educating and rehabilitating as an operating mantra for our corrections system.
We all agree that public safety is paramount. But we can also all agree that it is madness to spend over $50,000 a year for a prison cell while ignoring the wisdom of early intervention.
And it starts from the very beginning. It starts from the classroom and let’s finally recognize the past flaw in our approach to education in poor districts. Schools in poor communities not only face an educational challenge, they face many, many other burdens that other schools and other communities don’t face. They face the issue of poverty. They face the issue of one-parent households. They face the issue of after-school problems, nutrition issues, crime issues, violence issues. Let’s invest in the right help early on so we are not paying for problems later on.
Let’s make a big change. Let’s make a big difference for thousands of children. Let’s help thousands of children. Let’s do it this year. Let’s dedicate $100 million to transform every failing school in New York into a comprehensive, holistic, full-service community school and change the basic education system in this state and stop the cycle of incarceration in this state and paying for problems, rather than stopping the problems at an early age.
We must also provide an alternative to the street corner. Young minority males have an unemployment rate of over 40%. They need hope and opportunity, they need a light at the end of the tunnel. We pioneered a new approach that has been working for a few a years, providing job vouchers for private sector employers that provide a job and job training. It’s working. Just go to the Bronx and talk to Borough President Diaz and you can feel on the street where the unemployment rate has come down and young people have jobs and have hopes and crime is down. Let’s build on that and let’s invest another $55 million to provide opportunities to another 10,000 young men and women and keep them on the right course.
And we must go further on our social, racial, and economic justice agenda.
Economic anxiety for working families hangs in the air like a thick, stifling fog. This month 560,000 families live in poverty and millions of low-wage workers in this state are forced to choose between paying rent and buying food for their families.
There is an unhealthy income inequality gap that is only growing.
I say lift up the poor and the working families of this state and pay a real decent wage that honors FDR’s original intent and promise. We can raise the minimum wage to $15 and we can show this nation what real economic justice means.
Now, my $15 proposal is reasonable. And it is phased in over an amount of time to allow our economy to grow and to adjust to expand the number of people participating in that success. It’s only fair and it’s only right – listen to this – if the minimum wage in the 70’s, had been indexed to the rate of inflation you know where it would be? My proposal today at $15 an hour. What that means is that the minimum wage since the 70’s has not kept pace. What that means is you’ve had 45 years of economic injustice where the poor were getting poorer, while everyone else was moving up. That’s not America’s way because that’s not fair.
Some argue against this proposal. They say its government interference in the private sector economy, government interference in the private sector economy. That argument is the height of hypocrisy. Listen to this. Companies that pay the minimum wage – like a McDonald’s – have full time workers who are still below the poverty level and since they are below the poverty le vel they still qualify for welfare and food stamps. That costs taxpayers, on average, $6,800 per worker. So McDonald’s is paying $18,000 and we are paying $6,800 to subsidize that worker. It is a subsidy for McDonald’s. It subsidizes their payroll by 40 percent. It is corporate welfare at its worst. I have not heard the opponents stand up and say “stop the McDonalds subsidy, stop the Burger King subsidy, stop the small business subsidy!” In New York State, we spend $700 million a year subsidizing workers just to McDonald’s and Burger King. $700 million a year. Explain that to your constituents. I say it’s time to get out of the hamburger business, pay people a decent wage, raise it to $15, join me in the fight. It’s what this state needs. We can get it done. We won’t stop until we get it done. Let them defend McDonald’s and the corporate subsidies to the big corporations with your money.
We also, my friends, have a true human crisis that is a litmus test for society’s compassion and government’s competence. There has been a recent explosion in the number of homeless people living on our streets. It is a human tragedy.
Now, to me this is personal. I spent my life – starting in my 20's – working to help the homeless. Literally building shelters and running them. And it touches me deeply and I know I’m not alone. New Yorkers are troubled by the homeless problem. Why? Because we are a caring, loving people.
We are joined today by Joey Resto who was in the news this week for literally giving his shirt off his back and the hat off his head to a shirtless, shivering homeless man in the subway. Let’s give Joey Resto a big round of applause for being a good Samaritan. Raise your hand, Joey! Raise your hand… there he is.
This is New York. This is New York. And we are New Yorkers and we will not allow people to dwell in the gutter like garbage. It hurts all of us. You can see it on people’s faces. Every time we walk by a homeless person most of us can’t even bear to look, we can’t bear to make eye contact. We pretend that we don’t see them. Why? Because we don’t want them to see us – because it diminishes us. To walk past a brother and sister, sitting on the sidewalk and doing nothing.
It’s as if every time we walk by a homeless person we leave a piece of our soul on that curb. This is not who we are as a people, it’s not our values as a society, it’s not what we were taught, it’s not how we live and it’s not what we’re going to do as a government. We are better than this.
Now, we have made significant progress on the problem before and working together we can do it again. I believe our people will support the funding necessary to help protect and support their brothers and sisters.
That’s why in this budget I propose a record $20 billion over the next 5 years. This proposal includes $10 billion for 100,000 permanent affordable units. It also includes $10 billion for 6,000 new supported beds over 5 years, 1,000 emergency shelter beds, and other homeless services.
And the plan goes further. Over 15 years, we will be funding a record 20,000 supportive housing beds. And we will continue to fund 44,000 supportive units and 77,000 shelter beds. That’s $28 billion over 15 years. New Yorkers have a big heart, but New Yorkers are also smart. And society’s compassion must be matched with government confidence.
Each jurisdiction requesting or requiring homeless assistance from the state will be asked to design a strategic plan we call the Continuum of Care, which assesses the size and needs of each sub group within the homeless population and identifies exactly what they need. We implemented this system nationwide at the department of housing and urban development, and it was a great success.
It is also well established that many of our shelters are unsanitary and unsafe. People have been attacked and victimized in some shelters and some would rather stay outside in the frigid cold than risk entering, and they are right to do it. Over this past year, the state has recorded 2,500 health and safety violations in shelters across the state. This suffering has gone on for a long time. Adding insult to injury, taxpayers fund over $1 billion for a dysfunctional statewide shelter system. It’s just unacceptable.
It is imperative that we improve the conditions of the shelters and restore the public’s trust in the system. We need a true independent review, inspection, and action plan from objective experts to go forward.
Remember you are state officials and this is a state constitutional responsibility. The state’s obligation to the needy goes beyond empty guarantees and is intended to be a social obligation. And we will honor it.
We have developed a strategy and a plan. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli will audit shelters statewide and we thank him very much. Comptroller Scott Stringer will review and inspect the New York City shelter system and we thank him very much. Comptroller, Stringer. Buffalo Comptroller Mark Shroeder will do the same with the Buffalo shelter system. Mark Shroeder, where are you (applause)? There he is. Mark is way in the back of the room because he’s on his way out. He’s going to start the inspections now, as a matter of fact. To the extent these gentlemen need additional personnel, we will provide it from the state. Buffalo and New York City because those are our two largest shelter systems.
They will do onsite inspections and review operating and financial protocols.
Thereafter, shelters they find to be unsafe or dangerous will either immediately add local police protection – or they will be closed.
Shelters which they find as unsanitary or otherwise unfit will be subject to contract cancellation, operator replacement, immediate remediation or closure.
If an operator’s management problem is systemic, a receiver will be appointed to run that system.
There are many qualified not-for-profits that are capable of running good operations and many of the current shelters are well run. But we need to know which are well run and which are not, and we do to do something about those that are not well run immediately. And that’s exactly what this system will do.
In addition, we will require all social service districts, municipalities, social service workers, and police departments to operate in full compliance with New York State laws and regulations or they will be subject to state sanctions.
We have developed this approach in cooperation with our local partners, across the state, and we will be working with them to facilitate the three Comptroller’s efforts. I want to thank all our local leaders but I especially want to thank Mayor DeBlasio and Mayor Brown for their cooperation, they’ve been working very hard and this is a priority for them. I believe this will improve shelter services and thereby help bring the homeless off the streets and will give the public confidence that everything that can be done is being done. It also happens to be the right thing to do.
While we have done much in New York to be proud of, there is still a threshold issue which must be addressed. We have proven competence, and we have proven we can make government work, but recent acts have undermined the public’s trust in government.
Public trust is essential for government to function at the level we need. I have a number of recommendations that will be in the budget that I believe will help restore the public trust.
The original constitutional view of a part-time legislature dates back to colonial charters and our first State Constitution in 1777. Now back then, legislators returned to their farms to tend the crops. But that doesn’t happen today. Today, legislators work at law firms or business that pose real or potential conflicts. I propose we adopt the congressional system of limiting outside income for legislators. It’s a proven, it’s cleaner and it’s more effective model that the people of this nation have confidence in, and I believe we should accept the same.
For years we have discussed and I have proposed closing the LLC loophole. The time for discussion and debate has passed. It’s time for action. I call on the Legislature to close the LLC loophole this year. It is imperative. Pass it and I will sign it into law the very same day.
In our current campaign finance system, people without funds are virtually uncompetitive. Public campaign financing can help level the playing field, particularly for those seeking to enter. We should encourage new participation in our democracy. I will again propose public financing of campaigns. Long term, this is healthy for our democracy and healthier for our government, and you should pass it this year.
Senator Valesky is right. Our lobbying law is too often circumvented. It can and should be improved. People who work to procure state contracts currently don’t register as lobbyists – they should. Political consultants who advise elected officials while also representing clients before the government do not currently register as lobbyists either – and they should also. I am going to send you that bill, and that’s a bill that you should sign.
It is perverse that taxpayers’ money would support officials found guilty of committing a felony against the taxpayers. We must take state pensions from those convicted of a crime related to their government service. Anything else shows disrespect for the rule of law and for the taxpayer.
The Freedom of Information Law is a central component of public integrity and disclosure yet the legislature has exempted themselves. It is indefensible, especially in today’s context for you to say you believe in the Freedom of Information Law and for you to sign bills reforming the Freedom of Information Law, but excluding yourself. Let’s make a statement to the citizens and taxpayers of this state that you get it. If you pass a FOIL bill, include yourselves. I will sign it the very same day.
It has been fifty years since we had a constitutional convention. All too often, public opinion is not reflected in legislative action in Albany. A constitutional convention that is properly held – with independent, non-elected official delegates – could make real change and reengage the public. We need a citizen-government relationship reboot. This is the time to do it and the constitutional convention could be the vehicle to do it.
The key to reforming our government is engaging people in the democratic process. We already know government is of the people, by the people, for the people. So why do we make it so difficult for the people to participate? Voter registration should be a presumption, not a hurdle. Let’s flip the paradigm and automatically enroll voters when they get a driver’s license. They can always opt out.
These ethics reforms are important. Especially considering the context of the past year.
We have to remember the people we serve, and it’s our responsibility to give them the government that they deserve.
And remember the stronger the citizen trust, the stronger the government’s ability. We have a big agenda.
Now my friends in closing, there are two other issues that I would like to speak to. These are the lessons that I learned the hard way but maybe an opportunity for me and the state to learn and grow. 2015 was a tough year on many levels. It was a tough year an ugly year on many levels. For me there were also personal hardships in 2015 just about this time last year, we lost my father. He was in this room many a time, he was at this podium many a time. Many of the people in this room knew him very well.
He had been failing during the holiday season and I was trying to fortify him against the indignities of bodily failure. My father was a very proud and dignified man and the end of his life was very difficult for him to handle. And I kept trying to give him reason to hang on and to fight and to motivate him and I would say, “you know its thanksgiving, you have to be there for thanksgiving,” and then I would say, “it’s my birthday in early December,” and then I say, “it’s Christmas pop you have to be there for Christmas,” and then I said, “January 1st, it is my inauguration and I need you there for the inauguration.”
He said, “No you don’t.” I said, “Oh no I need you to help me write the speech,” and he said again, “no you don’t.” That was a losing argument. So he said, “Okay I will be here for your inauguration.” I looked him right in the eye and I said, “You have to promise me.” He said, “I promise you, I will be here for your inauguration.”
My father never in his life broke a promise to me. January 1st, the day of the inauguration, I went by his apartment to see him, went down to the freedom tower in lower Manhattan, I was sworn in. We had talked about the speech before, he heard the speech over the phone back in his apartment. I then got on a plane and went to Buffalo, the lieutenant governor and I were doing a second inauguration because Kathy Hochul is from Buffalo. And I was giving the speech in Buffalo. In the back of the room I saw the state police major take a phone call which was unusual. As I saw him starting to walk back down the main aisle of the hall, I knew at that minute exactly what had happened.
Life is such a precious gift and I have kicked myself every day that I didn’t spend more time with my father at that end period. I could have. I am lucky. I could have taken off work, I could have cut days in half I could have spent more time with him. It was my mistake and a mistake I blame myself for every day. But there are many people in this state who do not have the choice. A parent is dying, a child is sick, they can’t take off of work.
Their employer says, if you don’t come you are fire, if you don’t come you don’t get paid. People have children and mothers run the risk of losing their job if they stay home with their child. Out of 185 countries, the United States is one of just three that does not have paid maternity leave. The others are Surinam and Papua New Guinea. This is not where New York should be. We should have a paid leave program, paid for by employees, who can get twelve weeks of pay and Senator Jeff Klein is exactly right.
At the end of the day family matters. Intimate relationships matter and in this 24/7 world let this state make a statement of what is really important and those relationships are important. We should be there, one for another, especially in a family environment. Let’s pass family leave this session.
The second issue, last march Sandy mentioned to me she was going for a breast exam. I didn’t think anything of it, Sandy was – had no family history of cancer, 48 years old so it was just a regular check up. A few days later she called me up, she was crying. What happened? She got the results from the screening and one word changed our life: cancer.
And that started weeks and weeks and days of a torturous long road with tears and pain that I cannot even begin to articulate. Sandy was great. You know how they say you can really tell a person’s mettle in tough times and when the heat is on. She got stronger, she got braver, she didn’t complain, she had a double mastectomy. Went through that, was recovering at home and all she was thinking about is how do I take this experience and use the energy to help others. How do I take the negative and how do I make it a positive? I just want her to know she was such an inspiration to me because that strength and that love for community is everything we talk about. But you did it.
Now since Sandy's operation, she has talked about it, word got out about it. Since her operation three women who work with me in their thirties and forties came to me and said, I heard what happened with Sandy, I went and got a screenings. Three women all three had breast cancer. And they never would have gone but if not for Sandy. I know ask women who are in the target age group, “Do you go for screenings?” They say,
“well its hard, I can’t, my insurance, my kids, work, family.”
Early detection is the best treatment. Early detection is the best treatment. I propose $90 million to make New York where we have the most aggressive breast cancer screening operation in this country. Mobile unites that can get to women, longer hours for clinics, weekend hours for clinics. DFS making sure insurance companies are willing to pay for the screening. These are our wives, our daughters, our sisters. Let’s stand up and say, “New York is the place. One out of five women will suffer from breast cancer. We’re going to get that number down in New York because we’re going to do what we need to do to save lives because these are our women. And the best thing we can do is to save the lives of New Yorkers.
In closing, my friends, there is no doubt that this is an ambitious agenda. What else did you think I was going to give to you? But we need the agenda. Now is the moment to maximize the progress that we have made and we have made progress all across this state on every level and now is the time to double down.
Also, this nation has real problems that we haven’t seen before. And with the gridlock in Washington, I’m not going to rely on them to solve them. New York has a legacy of leading. We’re going to have to act to protect ourselves and to protect our own people. So yes, it is an ambitious agenda, and yes, it is going to be a challenge. But I know you and I know what you’re capable of and I’ve seen what you can do and I have no doubt that you are going to rise to this challenge. You took a $10 billion deficit, and you made it into a $5 billion surplus. You took a Legislature that couldn’t function and you did give budgets in a row. You took the worst partisanship gridlock and you came together and you put your politics aside.
I believe Senator Flanagan and Assemblyman Heastie are not going to operate as Democrats and Republicans. They’re not going to be partisans and they’re not going to be zealots. They’re going to act first as New Yorkers and do what’s right for the state of New York. And I know who we are. In our DNA we are New Yorkers. There is nothing that we can’t do as New Yorkers. We never say quit, we never say no. that’s who made us, that’s who brought us. We came from people who came from different lands. They came in little boats, they went across oceans. They didn’t know where they were going, but they were going for opportunity. They were daring, they were gutsy, they were strong. That’s the blood in your veins.
We’re the people who survived 9/11. You knock us down, we get up twice as strong. That’s who we are. And our strength – our strength is insurmountable because it is a strength rooted in our principles. That’s what drives our ambition and conviction. It’s our belief and it is our values. It’s what we stand for. That makes us unbeatable and that’s why you can’t knock us down, because we’re going to keep getting up, because we are New York and we are New Yorkers and we are the Empire State and what we stand for, we will never give up on. We stand for freedom. We stand for democracy. We stand for being united against terrorism. We stand for the spirit of community that says you can’t discriminate against anyone in our state on the basis of race or color, or creed. We stand for unity that we are one at the end of the day.
We are upstate and we are downstate, but we are one state. We are gay and we are straight but we are one state. We are black and we are brown but we are one state. And that unity and those principles and those convictions and that honor of public service is going to rise to the surface again this year. We will meet these challenges and we will make this state a better state and we will show this nation how to lead.
They elected you to lead. Let’s lead. Together. Thank you and God bless you.”