Statewide campaign aimed at building public support for key legislative priorities including property tax cap, ethics reform and marriage equality
Albany, NY (May 12, 2011)
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today continued his "People First Campaign" at Buffalo State College, where he outlined his legislative priorities and told Western New Yorkers that their voices must be heard in order to get Albany to act on these key reforms.
Last week, Governor Cuomo announced that he and his senior staff would tour the state 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.
"Our entire team is traveling across the state, speaking directly to New Yorkers in Buffalo and beyond about the issues that can move this state forward," Governor Cuomo said. "We need to pass a property tax cap, ethics reform, and marriage equality during this legislative session and time is short. When the people speak, politicians listen and react accordingly. It is time to collectively speak up and make this the Empire State once again"
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.
Andrew Rudnick, President and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership said, "Runaway taxes are suffocating businesses, hampering job growth, and driving people away from Western New York. The Governor's tax cap plan puts New Yorkers first, and will force governments to find efficiencies. We can choose the right direction, which is a cap that helps New Yorkers and reverses a statewide downward spiral, or we can maintain the status quo. We want change and we fully support Governor Cuomo."
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.
Marcia Merrins, Past President of the New York State League of Women Voters and member of LWV Chautauqua County, said, "For years the League of Women Voters advocated for an empowered independent entity to enforce ethics rules in NYS for lobbyists, public officials and candidates. There should be penalties for bad behavior that should be sufficient to compel full disclosure and dissuade activities that are unethical under NYS laws. We applaud Governor Cuomo's measures to bring ethics back to Albany. The League will continue to advocate for this until citizens are protected from misdirected candidates, lobbyists, and public officials."
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, 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.
Kitty Lambert, President of OUTspoken for Equality, said, "As Governor Cuomo has said, marriage equality is a fundamental civil rights issue. The majority of New Yorkers support it – and it is time for Albany to listen to the people. We are proud to be a part of the Governor's coalition to bring real change to this state, and bring it now, so that all New Yorkers can enjoy equal benefits, rights and recognition."
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 Mark Grisanti said, "I am proud that Governor Cuomo has once again come to Buffalo to discuss his priorities. His visible presence in Western New York shows that he is attuned to the issues most important in our region and I applaud his bringing his message of reform directly to the people. I look forward to working with his administration to make our state a better place to live and work."
Assemblyman Sam Hoyt said, "Governor Cuomo's leadership in just a few months has already improved how New York state operates. His bold agenda is one that Buffalo residents and businesses have been calling for for years. It is past time for New York to once again thrive and be a progressive leader of the nation. And, it is time for the Legislature to get to work to pass these important measures. I thank Governor Cuomo for coming here today and look forward to helping him put this plan into action."
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, "We are always honored to host Governor Cuomo in Buffalo. His work on behalf of the people of the state has been nothing short of exemplary so far and New Yorkers can share in a sense of reassurance that his momentum is continuing. From where we sit in Western New York, we have witnessed with shame and astonishment the lack of action in Albany and the dysfunction that has led to legislative paralysis. It is time to change this practice and bring in an era of accountability to our state government. I am proud to call the Governor a partner and look forward to continuing to work with him."
Buffalo State College President Aaron Podolefsky said, "Buffalo State College is delighted to host Governor Cuomo on his People First campaign. New York state is fortunate to have a governor that is so engaged and willing to take his message of reform directly to the people. The notion of the People First campaign is noble and we are proud to have him as a part of our community."
For more information about the People First tour, visit www.NYPeopleFirst.com.