Declaring New York State at a crucial crossroads, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today traveled to Watertown to present the action plan outlined in his recent State of the State Address. Governor Cuomo wants to fundamentally transform New York State's government and economy by getting the state's fiscal house in order, radically redesigning our governmental structures and operations, and restoring integrity and performance to state government. Governor Cuomo noted that the decisions we make now will impact our state for decades to come.
"To fix Albany, it is essential that we work together and make sure that communities in the North Country, like Watertown, are part of the process," Governor Cuomo said. "The challenges that exist in Watertown ripple across the state and this is where we must start to identify solutions and put our state on the right track."
Governor Cuomo spoke to hundreds of New Yorkers at the Jefferson County Community College. The Governor said he would open up government to the public and work in partnership with all stakeholders to address the serious fiscal challenges facing New York State and its local governments.
In that spirit, the Governor unveiled a new Web site, www.NYcitizenscampaign.com, where the public is invited to communicate ideas, tips, and concerns directly with their government.
In light of the enormous fiscal challenges facing New York, Governor Cuomo's agenda relies on rethinking core government operations and economic development strategies to provide better results and to maximize resources.
Governor Cuomo outlined the following initiatives as part of his message:
- Emergency Fiscal Plan: Governor Cuomo outlined an Emergency Financial Plan that closes the $10 billion deficit in the 2011-12 budget without raising taxes or borrowing. The plan called for imposing a one-year salary freeze on the vast majority of public employees whose contracts are up for renegotiation as of April 1; holding the line on taxes; and imposing a state spending cap limiting spending growth to the rate of inflation.
- Rightsizing Government: Saying that redesigning New York State government is essential to rebuilding the state's economy, Governor Cuomo issued an Executive Order creating the Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission to make state government more accountable and efficient by reducing the number of agencies, authorities, and commissions by 20 percent. The SAGE Commission is directed to submit to the Governor a rightsizing plan to reduce the number of agencies by May 1st of this year. Under additional legislation proposed by the Governor, the Governor would then submit the rightsizing plan to the Legislature for action with the plan going in to effect, unless the Legislature acted within 30 days to reject it. Director of Agency Redesign and Efficiency Paul Francis will serve as Co-Chair with the Governor appointing one or more additional Co-Chairs.
- Redesigning the Medicaid program: Governor Cuomo issued an Executive Order aimed at redesigning New York State's costly Medicaid program. The order calls for the creation of a new Medicaid Redesign Team to find ways to save money within the Medicaid program for the Governor's upcoming state budget proposal for the 2011-12 Fiscal Year. Based on the nationally recognized model used in Wisconsin that involved bringing stakeholders together to find efficiencies and cost savings within the Medicaid program, the team includes leaders from the healthcare industry, the Governor's office, the legislative bodies, and other business, labor, and consumer advocates. Jason Helgerson, whom the Governor appointed to serve as New York State Medicaid Director and created the Wisconsin model, will be the Team's Executive Director.
Under the Governor's order, the Team's work is underway and must submit its first report with findings and recommendations to the Governor by March 1 for consideration in the budget process.
- Providing Mandate Relief: Governor Cuomo issued an Executive Order creating the "Mandate Relief Redesign Team" ("Team") to review unfunded and underfunded mandates imposed by the New York State government on school districts, local governments, and other local taxing districts. The Team, chaired by Senior Advisor to the Governor Larry Schwartz, includes representatives from private industry, education, labor, and government and look for ways to reduce the costs of mandated programs, identify mandates that are ineffective and outdated, and determine how school districts and local governments can have greater ability to control expenses. The Team's work is underway and it will submit a first set of recommendations to the Governor by March 1, 2011 for consideration in the Fiscal Year 2011-12 budget process. The Team will continue its review until the end of Fiscal Year 2011-12.
- Redesigning Local Governments: Governor Cuomo is creating a program to reward local governments that save money by rightsizing. The Citizen Re-Organization Empowerment Grants will provide up to $100,000 to cover all or part of the costs of merger and dissolutions studies.
- Redesigning Education: Noting that New York is first in spending but 34th in results, Governor Cuomo proposed restructuring a portion of our education aid to create incentives that reward school districts for improving student performance and implementing management efficiency policies.
- Transforming the ethical environment in Government: Governor Cuomo's "Clean Up Albany" agenda would institute campaign finance reforms including a system of public financing for elections, limits on contribution levels, creating an independent redistricting commission, creating independent monitoring and enforcement of ethics laws, and requiring full disclosure of outside income and clients. Governor Cuomo also proposed to outlaw "pay to play" to limit the impact of special interests, strip pensions for public officials convicted of a felony for abusing the public trust, and improve government performance and transparency through technology.
Transforming New York's Economy:
Governor Cuomo said, "Business built New York, and we are declaring that New York is once again open for business."
Governor Cuomo said that restoring the state's historically thriving private sector will require holding the line on taxes and working to lower taxes in the future. His economic development agenda seeks to help government to be a job facilitator through the following initiatives:
- Creating regional Economic Development Councils: Noting that those working at the local level know their area economies best, he will create regional economic development councils to work with state agencies to allocate resources. To ensure that state agencies and the councils are working to create jobs, Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy will lead these councils, whose members will be drawn from the private sector, local governments, state agencies, and academic institutions.
- Fixing the recently-enacted Excelsior Tax Credit Program: Governor Cuomo proposed to revise the recently enacted Excelsior Tax Credit Program to produce better results for New Yorkers. His proposals would restructure the value and length of the tax credit to provide greater incentives for job creation; restructure incentives for improving properties; pay credits as job-creation milestones are met rather than at the end of the proposal; expand research and development tax credits; and streamline the application and approval process.
- Create a permanent Power for Jobs Program: To help keep manufacturers in New York State, Governor Cuomo introduced a permanent Power for Jobs program to provide predictability and stability of supply with long-term contracts, and incorporate efficiency incentives to reward improvements.
- Enacting Property Tax Relief: Governor Cuomo's property tax cap will set the cap at the rate of inflation or two percent, whichever is less; prohibit any property tax levy above the cap unless endorsed by both by the local governing board and a 60 percent majority of the people during an election; and provide only limited exceptions such as extraordinary legal or capital expenditures.
Making New York the Progressive Capital of the Nation
Governor Cuomo seeks to reclaim New York's status as the progressive leader in the nation in the following ways:
- Better protecting consumers and investors: A newly-formed Department of Financial Regulation will merge the Insurance Department, Banking Department, and the Consumer Protection Board to better regulate modern financial services organizations. A primary mission will be to stand up for consumers, protect them from predatory lending and unlawful foreclosure practices, and provide access to good, honest, and capable financial services at competitive rates.
- A cleaner, greener environment: Governor Cuomo will create the "NY Cleaner, Greener Communities Program" to provide competitive grants that will encourage communities to develop regional sustainable growth strategies in housing, transportation, emissions control, and energy efficiency. The program will emphasize revitalizing urban areas through smart growth, creating green jobs, building green infrastructure including roof and rain gardens, and strengthening environmental justice and protection.
- Expanding Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBE) support: Of the 1.9 million business entities operating in New York State, more than 50 percent are owned by women or minorities. The vast majority of these companies are small businesses and a critical driver of the New York State economy. To ensure that MWBEs have the opportunity to earn their fair share of the state's business, Governor Cuomo directed state agencies to double the current MWBE participation goal from 10 to 20 percent, ease bonding restrictions that they will face, and expand the Owner-Controlled Insurance Program model to improve opportunities for small businesses.
- Juvenile Justice Reorganization: With a goal of reducing wasteful spending, Governor Cuomo will undertake an immediate reorganization of the state's youth detention facilities with the goal of consolidation, while providing current staff the priority for relocation to other facilities, retraining, and/or reemployment opportunities. To avoid keeping facilities open that have few or no children, he proposed a repeal of the requirement mandating a 12-month notice requirement to close facilities.
- Expanding fresh food into urban centers: To help revitalize urban areas and develop markets for New York farmers, Governor Cuomo will seek ways to expand the presence of locally-grown food markets in urban areas. This will include working to revitalize the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market in the Bronx, which supplies a large portion of the produce for New York City's and the region's food consumption, and creating a "Share NY Food" Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program that develops partnerships with farmers and residents to expand access and resources and make fresh food available to consumers in urban areas.
- Providing for marriage equality for all New Yorkers: To end discrimination against same-sex couples who wish to get married, Governor Cuomo called for the passage of legislation legalizing marriage for same-sex couples, as has been done in many states and other countries.
- Protect Reproductive Rights: To protect a woman's right to choose options in the face of an unplanned or problematic pregnancy, Governor Cuomo will fight for passage of reproductive rights legislation to protect the fundamental right of reproductive freedom and a woman's right to make private health care decisions.