Today, the Post Standard published an op-ed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on the importance of the FY 2018 State Budget, key investments in the Central New York, 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.
Budget will 'fuel growth, opportunity across Central New York'
We are living in challenging times. Driven by ultra-conservatives in Washington, in recent weeks the federal government has tried and failed to defund our health care system and tried and failed to create a religious test for immigration. Now Congress is getting ready to try to cut taxes for the rich and tip the balance in favor of the wealthy. Given the national climate, what we do here in New York speaks louder than ever before.
With our $153 billion budget, New York State has issued a bold and progressive statement of our values. This budget invests in our middle class, cuts taxes for working families and continues New York's upward economic trajectory. And it does so even while holding spending to 2 percent for the seventh year in a row. With this budget, we are sending a clear message that New York is moving forward.
This budget maintains New York's commitment to revitalizing communities across the state, including here in Syracuse. From accelerating the state's historic $100 billion infrastructure program to modernizing the State Fair to launching the first-in-the-nation free college program, this budget will fuel growth and opportunity across Central New York.
The budget provides $36 million to transform Hancock International Airport into world-class transit hub. The project will redesign the grand hall, add food, beverage and retail concessions, upgrade the exterior facade, and create a new Regional Aviation History Museum.
In addition to the airport, this budget will help improve transportation across the region. It finally opens the door for ride-hailing services in Upstate New York, and it invests $167 million to strengthen roads and bridges throughout Central New York. Other infrastructure investments, such as $2 million to upgrade drinking water systems in Auburn and Owasco, ensure that New York is building today for a better tomorrow. And by continuing to strengthen organized labor by allowing members to deduct dues from their taxes, we are ensuring that while workers build the new New York, they will continue to sustain our middle class.
This budget maintains New York's commitment to revitalizing communities across the state, including Syracuse.
This budget will also help continue to grow the Central New York economy. It commits another $50 million to modernize the State Fair, a magnet for tourism and a beloved New York tradition, while providing an additional $20 million to add an on-ramp on Interstate 690 West and upgrade the Orange parking lot to improve traffic flow. And it ensures that Central New York will maintain its edge in the 21st century by bringing the headquarters of Saab Defense and Security USA to East Syracuse, creating 260 new high-tech jobs while retaining 450 employees in the region.
Our budget also 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. With this budget, New York becomes the first state in the country to provide tuition-free college for families making up to $125,000 per year, removing the financial barrier to college for roughly 80 percent of families in Central New York. A college degree is critical to success in the modern economy, and now all New Yorkers will be able to attend our premier public universities regardless of their family's means.
We are also making record investments in education to ensure that our children and teenagers are provided with every opportunity to thrive. With an increase of $1.1 billion statewide, New York State's total educational commitment rises to a record $25.8 billion.
The budget includes other groundbreaking measures to protect New Yorkers, from improving our healthcare to reforming our criminal justice system. This year, we are doubling down in the fight against the devastating opioid epidemic, committing $5 million to support prevention and treatment. We are also taking action against the soaring price of prescription drugs, which for too long have prevented our most vulnerable from accessing the lifesaving treatment they need. In this year's budget, we are capping the price of prescription drug spending in Medicaid to ensure equal access for all.
With this budget, we are finally raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18, rectifying a deep injustice toward our youth. 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. Ensuring fiscal responsibility, this budget has incorporated enough flexibility to protect New York from reckless changes in federal spending.
New York's Upstate economies have made tremendous progress, and we can't let the momentum slip. Guided by our shared belief in a better tomorrow, we will continue to working until the bright light of opportunity shines on everyone. New York will continue to lead the nation ever upward. Excelsior.
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