This morning, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on CATS Roundtable Radio Show with John Catsimatidis.
AUDIO of the interview is available here.
A rush transcript of Governor Cuomo's interview are available below:
John Catsimatidis: With us this morning is Governor Andrew Cuomo, a name that’s known nationwide, that’s why we have him on the national show. Good morning Andrew Cuomo, how are you?
Governor Cuomo: Good morning. Good to be with you John, always a pleasure.
John Catsimatidis: Congratulations. I understand you’re just about to pass a new budget in New York State, and can you tell us a little bit about it?
Governor Cuomo: Yes, I can, John. It’s probably, it was the hardest budget that we’ve done during my administration but it’s also the best budget that we’ve done. It was very ambitious, there’s a lot of needs out there today, a lot of challenges, challenges coming from the federal government vis a vis a state. This really addresses them all. Some of the hallmarks in the budget is, it’s the first time any state will say to the citizens of the state, they’re going to make public college affordable, accessible, for people up to $125,000 in income. Up to $125,000 in income, you basically don’t need to pay for public college. It’s important on a number of levels, John.
First of all, college is today what high school was 50 years ago. If you’re a young person who wants success and a career, a college education is necessary. If you’re a state that wants to compete for jobs, I can tell you what these corporations are saying: do you have an educated workforce? Do I have the skilled labor if I come to your state? So this college affordability up to $125,000 is smart.
It’s also right on a moral level. You know, what makes America, America is that you can go from nothing to become a success; that society will work with you to do that and the ladder of opportunity was the public education system. Today, you need a college education and you shouldn’t be foreclosed just because you can’t afford one or you come from a family that can’t afford it and it’s incredibly expensive and everyone knows. I think a lot of that tension that we feel out there, where people feel the country is changing. They don’t have a fair shot. This says, I don’t care if you’re rich, if you’re poor, if you’re black, if you’re white, if you’re Greek, if you’re Italian – you work hard, you have the talents, you can have a college education and the state will pay for it because the state believes in you and wants you to do well. So that’s a life changer, I think, the college affordability.
John Catsimatidis: How much additional cost in the budget for this?
Governor Cuomo: It costs about $150 million, John, but I believe it’s an investment towards this state. I can tell you when I am trying to lure businessmen to come to the state, the question is always the skilled workforce. All these new tech companies…
John Catsimatidis: It doesn’t sound like a lot of money for all those benefits. Are out of state kids eligible? Or just New York State kids?
Governor Cuomo: These are in-state kids and they make a promise that they need to keep a certain grade point average, it’s more of a scholarship. Also that they are going to stay and live in the state afterwards. But economically, it’s smart for sure. But John more than anything I like what it says to people. It says, every child who puts his head on the pillow or her head on the pillow – you can be a success. it doesn’t matter if mom and dad can’t pay for college. It says to parents, don’t worry about paying for college. Don’t worry about choosing between paying rent and paying for college education. The state will invest in your child because that’s an investment in the state.
We also have a provision called Raise the Age. New York was one of two states that treated 16 and 17 year olds like adults and didn’t really give young people a chance for rehabilitation. We also have a proposal that’s now law, which will get citizens involved in controlling their local property taxes which are a killer outside the City of New York. You don’t feel it in New York City but if you’re in Buffalo, you’re upstate, property taxes are the challenge. We really did a lot of great work this budget on a number of levels.
John Catsimatidis: I feel it in my Suffolk County home.
Governor Cuomo: That’s right. I take it back.
John Catsimatidis: I understand. I read some bullet points on the new budget, and there’s a middle class tax break. How does that work?
Governor Cuomo: Well, the whole agenda this year was really structured around helping the middle class because it is the middle class that feels left out. Right? You look at the income inequality in this nation. I look at the distribution of income. The top, top end is doing very well. It’s what we call the middle class that is shrinking. It’s where you came from, where i came from. That’s shrinking. This agenda was really designed to help the middle class. The college affordability, $125,000, is right for the middle class. Right? Property tax reform, that’s the middle class homeowner in this state that’s getting decimated by it, and cut their taxes. And this has a tax cut in it, an income tax cut for the middle class that is designed just to do that so it’s our way of saying to the middle class, “We hear you. We hear your tension and anger and we’re doing everything we can to alleviate it. The state’s on your side.” And this is probably the clearest way of saying that.
John Catsimatidis: Let’s talk about New York City politics. I understand mayoral control is up in the air on the Department of Education.
Governor Cuomo: There is a law that affects New York City and many of them affect New York City but one of them is that the state has allowed mayoral control of the education system in New York City. This is something that Mike Bloomberg was very proud of. Mayor de Blasio also has mayoral control. It has to be renewed by a state law, otherwise it reverts back to the old Board of Education et cetera. That law comes up in June for renewal. There was a discussion between the Assembly and the Senate to renew it sooner as part of this budget. That didn’t happen at the end of the day and that law expires in June and they’ll take it up in June.
John Catsimatidis: And what are the bullet points you see that New Yorkers would like to know about. You’re raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18. How does that affect Rikers Island because the mayor has been up in arms about Rikers Island. He wants to put a jail in every neighborhood, just about. What happens there?
Governor Cuomo: Well Rikers Island, first of all, is a terrible place. It’s the city’s jail. It literally is an island and that’s off Queens. That’s why they call it the Rikers Island. People forget that it’s an island. It’s had terrible abuses on it, violence, et cetera, that the federal government has come in, so it is a terrible place and I’ve been urging the city for years to end its use. 16-, 17-year-olds, John, are the most vulnerable population, right? You put a 16-year-old or 17-year-old in a prison or a jail with hardened criminals. Those 16- and 17-year-olds are in a terrible and vulnerable position. So this law says we’re going to treat 16- and 17-year-olds differently. If there’s an opportunity, we’re going to try to rehabilitate them before we put them in the prison system, which is only going to make their lives worse, and part of it is saying you can’t put 16- and 17-year-olds in a prison or a jail with hardened criminals. They have to be separated. And that’s going to apply to New York City, also it applies statewide. But 16- and 17-year-olds have to be off Rikers Island. They have to be off Rikers Island by next year, which is faster than the city was talking about. But we’re going to do it statewide. And it’s the right thing, John, because you can’t treat 16- and 17-year-olds differently if you put them in a facility where they’re probably going to be abused and I don’t believe it has to take years and years for government to do something.
John Catsimatidis: And we end up making them permanent criminals just about, at the age of 16 or 17, instead of contributing.
Governor Cuomo: That’s exactly right. Once you have that criminal record, it’s very hard to get a job anywhere. You spend time, you’ve got a 16-, 17-year-old in a prison. No good is going to come of that. So how many years does it take? When government wants to do something, it does it, right? We can build buildings. We can build bridges. We can build subways. We do things when we want to do something when we want to do it. This has got to be a priority. That’s what we said to every county in the state. We want 16- and 17-year-olds out of those facilities. Make it happen and make it happen by the end of next year.
John Catsimatidis: Now when everybody’s concerned about New York City, New York State, federal cuts are coming. When President Trump, who is a New Yorker, one of us, gets mad at Mayor de Blasio, what is this going to mean overall? Do we have a contingency plan?
Governor Cuomo: Well that was a big sticking point in the budget. This budget, because we finish the budget in April, right, and it’s a budget for one year. So my point was I don’t know what’s going to happen this year. You’re asking me to do a budget, to estimate revenues and expenses. If you listen to the federal government, a lot of people in Congress have declared war on New York. They’re talking about ending deductibility of state and local income taxes, which would be a crusher to New York. Their health care proposal would have cost New York $6 billion. They have other proposals that cost New York $2 billion, $1 billion.
So I said I can’t do a budget like this because I don’t know what’s going to happen. So I said, either let’s not do a budget and let’s stay flexible and lets go month to month until we figure it out, or you have to give me flexibility in the budget that if there are cuts I can adjust to it. And that’s what we worked out in this budget, the first time ever. We call it a federal financial response system. Now, if we get cut, I say to the legislature, “this is what we have to cut.” If the legislature has a better plan, fine. Otherwise my administration has the authority to implement a plant to fund the cuts. So, the financial integrity of the state is very important to me. We’ve made a lot of progress on that. We’ve cut spending. We’ve increased our bond rating. We have a reputation of being financially stellar and I want to keep that reputation.
John Catsimatidis: Now, you had six budgets in a row that you passed on time. You got criticism this week, but you pulled it out by the end of the week. I have to commend you. Was it different working with Dean Skelos and Shelly Silver than it is with this new group?
Governor Cuomo: Two points – Shelly Silver, who is ultimately been indicted and has gone to trial and is looking for a final sentencing agreement. He was a long time Albany pro. He had been the speaker for a long time. He was the longest serving speaker or one of the longest serving speakers, so he had total control over the conference and they did what he said, period. So, this is a different day and this is a different group, but in terms of the late budget, John, you know the press just loves to be negative. The budget was about a week late. They wrote that with sensational headlines, “It’s a week late. They blew past the deadline, blah blah blah.” Normally, in the old days when a budget was late, it was late months and months. So seven days isn’t good and you want to be on time, but it’s not the worst thing in the world. And not to be defensive, but we had six budgets on time and they were a week late on the seventh. The last time you had six budgets completed by the deadline, you have to go back to Governor Lehman. About 70 years is the last time that happened John.
John Catsimatidis: Wow. Let me ask you Andrew, because we only had a minute left. Would your dad be proud of you with this budget?
Governor Cuomo: I don’t know if he would be proud of me but he would love this budget. We have an immigrant defense fund. First time this state has ever done that. $10 million – which says, as a matter of philosophy John, as this country is trying to find out who it is and we’re going through this identity crisis. You can have your own opinion on immigration and should we deport people, etcetera. But this is still a nation of laws and people have legal rights and we’re going to protect these legal rights and that’s what this legal defense fund is. My father would love that. He would love college affordability. Because Mario Cuomo from the back of a grocery store in a poor community in south Jamaica believed he could make it and he could become anything he wanted.
John Catsimatidis: And he did and he made a couple of great sons too.
Governor Cuomo: You didn’t have to say that. You could have said just one John.
John Catsimatidis: I like your brother Chris too. Governor thank you so much for being with us this Sunday morning and thank you for all the things you do for all Americans and God Bless America.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you John. Thank you for everything you do for this city, state and this nation. You’re a beautiful, beautiful citizen. Thank you.
This morning, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on CATS Roundtable Radio Show with John Catsimatidis.