Today, the Democrat & Chronicle published an op-ed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on the importance of the FY 2018 State Budget, key investments in the Finger Lakes, and continuing New York’s record of fiscal responsibility. More information on the budget is available here. Text of that op-ed is available below and can be viewed online here.
In New York, we are forging our own path ahead
We live in challenging and unpredictable times, with ultraconservatives in Washington threatening our values and working to roll back the progress we have made. They have tried and failed to unravel our health care system and tried and failed to create a religious test for immigration. Now Congress is moving to tip the balance in favor of the wealthy with new tax cuts for the rich, at the expense of the rest.
In New York, we are standing up for our principles and forging our own path ahead. With our $153 billion budget, New York State has issued a bold statement of our collective values. This budget invests in our middle class, cuts taxes for working families, strengthens our economy and expands opportunity across the state. And it does so even while keeping spending to 2 percent as we have done for the past seven years. With this budget, we are saying without equivocation: New York is moving forward.
This budget maintains New York’s commitment to unlocking the potential of Upstate economies, including here in Rochester. From new infrastructure projects to strategic investments to fuel the innovation economy to an unprecedented free college program, this budget accelerates the region’s upward trajectory.
Accelerating the state’s historic $100 billion infrastructure program, the budget transforms the Greater Rochester International Airport into a state-of-the-art transit hub. The project will redesign the terminal building, adding solar panels, enhanced security measures, new technology to improve accessibility, and premier shopping and dining.
Other infrastructure investments will dramatically improve travel throughout the Finger Lakes. In addition to more than $40 million in aid for public transportation systems in the region, this budget finally brings ridesharing to upstate New York and invests $209 million to strengthen roads and bridges for Rochester-area communities, including rebuilding Interstate 390/490 interchange in the Town of Gates and repairing six bridges over the Erie Canal.
Today, we are not just planning what we will need in the 21st century, we are building it. And by continuing to strengthen organized labor by allowing members to deduct dues from their taxes, we are ensuring that while these workers build the new New York, they will continue to sustain our middle class.
This budget also maintains New York’s laser focus on creating good-paying jobs in communities across the state. It establishes the Finger Lakes Welcome Center in Geneva to fuel the tourism industry, and it provides support for wine and craft beverage research and development.
It also recognizes that if New York is going to continue to thrive in the 21st century economy, it needs to foster 21st century industries. In Rochester, New York State is launching the $10 million Photonics Venture Challenge to support startups in this fast-growing, high-tech field. And this budget also includes $20 million in funding for the New REMADE Institute at the Rochester Institute of Technology to help ensure that New York remains a leader in clean energy technology.
Our budget makes clear that progressive beliefs, far from being impediments to the middle class, are in fact the foundation upon which the middle class was built in the first place, and on which it will grow stronger. Recognizing the value of a college education in the 21st century, New York will become the first state in the nation to provide tuition-free college for families making up to $125,000 per year.
Through this program, nearly 80 percent of families in the Finger Lakes region will be able to attend our premier public universities without the burden of student loans anchoring them down. To make college even more accessible, the budget also increases access to electronic books to further cut college expenses.
With this budget, we are making record investments in education. With an increase of $1.1 billion statewide, New York State’s total educational commitment amounts to a record $25.8 billion, ensuring that our children and teenagers are provided with every opportunity to succeed.
The budget tackles some of the biggest challenges of our time, including the soaring prices of prescription drugs. We are capping the price of prescription drug spending in Medicaid to ensure equal access for all.
This budget also achieves landmark criminal justice reform. Draconian punishments for youthful offenders have ruined countless lives, so we are finally raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18. The budget also commits $10 million to the nation-leading Liberty Defense Project, which will provide free legal assistance to immigrants, regardless of their citizenship status.
There is no doubt that challenges lie ahead, especially with a radically conservative Congress committed to policies that will hurt the middle class and the most vulnerable among us. In keeping with our duty to be responsible, this budget has incorporated enough flexibility to protect New York from reckless changes in federal spending.
New York’s Upstate economies are roaring back to life, and we can't let the momentum slip. Never has New York achieved more, built more or produced more impactful legislation. Guided by our shared belief in a better tomorrow, we will continue to working until the bright light of opportunity shines on everyone. During these times of deep uncertainty, New York will continue to lead the nation forward and upward. Excelsior.
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