In 10th State of the State Address, Governor Advances Bold Agenda to Continue New York's Role as Progressive Capital of the Nation
Governor Cuomo: "New York has demonstrated the progressive philosophy for generations. From its birth in the early 19th century, New York has demonstrated a true progressive movement. It is the advancement of social, racial, and economic justice, in an effective manner, to bring about meaningful improvement in the lives of aggrieved people and further the collective interests. That is our definition."
Governor Cuomo: "That is New York - we are idealists and realists, we are dreamers and doers. We have accomplished more together than we could have imagined and now we must do even more. Our current challenges are daunting - but nothing New York at her best can't handle."
Governor Cuomo: "Racism and discrimination are not new, they are a virus that exists in society, sometimes dormant, but a virus that manifests itself when society's immune system is under attack and stressed - and it turns one cell against the other. It is this country consuming itself from within. If we do not confront it and defeat it - it will defeat us. New York must be the antidote. Hate and discrimination have no place in New York. It is ignorant, intolerant, and illegal."
Governor Cuomo: "Listen and learn the American Pledge of Allegiance'One nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all.' Justice for all - not for some - not only for the wealthy, the well-off or the well-bred. Indivisible. Cannot be divided. Cannot be segregated. Cannot be separated. United. It is that simple and that profound."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivered his 2020 State of the State address. The Governor's 2020 agenda - Making Progress Happen - features nation-leading proposals to tackle critical issues facing New York and the country including a domestic terrorism law to address the spike in hate crimes, a $3 billion environmental bond act to fight climate change, legalized cannabis and historic infrastructure and economic development investments like a new Empire Station Complex and a reimagined Erie Canal. The Governor's agenda also includes plans to help middle class families including an expanded free college tuition program, protections for gig economy workers, paid sick leave and tax cuts for middle class New Yorkers and small businesses. More information is available here.
The Governor's remarks as prepared are available below:
Happy New Year to all.
We gather here today to assess our situation as we enter this new year in 2020.
Our ship of state is stronger than it has been in decades. But the ocean we navigate is as tempest tossed as we have seen.
Waves of anxiety, injustice, and frustration are being fanned by winds of anger and division, creating a political and social superstorm.
Every day our people are besieged by crises, upheaval, and unrest. School shootings, synagogue massacres, swastikas, turmoil on university campuses, homophobia, the increase in hate groups - these are the ugly signs of our times.
And the forecast suggests it will get worse before it gets better.
The year ahead will not calm the waters but rather increase turbulence: impeachment proceedings, divisive campaigns, and increasing global conflict will only aggravate the conditions.
The administration in Washington has seen the tensions, but instead of addressing the causes of the anxiety and resolving them, it has seized upon them for political purposes; fanning them, weaponizing them, exploiting them.
We have a divided nation and a polarized Federal government.
Everyone is pointing fingers, but no one is pointing forward. And no one is pointing up.
These are the times when NYS is called upon to lead - to set a course for a troubled nation searching its way through the fog of confusion.
NY, at her best, is the progressive capital of the nation and we must fulfill that destiny again this year.
We must begin the journey by identifying the destination.
What is our progressive goal?
What does the word progressive even mean today in this world of political hyperbole and hashtags?
Well, NY has demonstrated the progressive philosophy for generations.
From its birth in the early 19th century, NY has demonstrated a true progressive movement.
It is the advancement of social, racial, and economic justice, in an effective manner, to bring about meaningful improvement in the lives of aggrieved people and further the collective interests.
That is our definition.
Historically that meant fighting slavery, welcoming refugees, birthing women's, LGBTQ and civil rights, breaking monopolies, and building the labor movement.
We understand the current dynamics of this nation's downward spiral. People across the country have real problems and they see no progress being made, for them.
And if there is no progress, there is no hope, and if there is no hope, the vacuum is easily filled by voices of despair, anger, blame, and division.
That is where we are.
On the other hand, progressive government sees the problems facing society and causing anxiety, and rather than blaming and scapegoating, it confronts the problems honestly and accomplishes tangible progress.
And in making progress, it builds hope and it builds public confidence, thus demonstrating the positive path forward.
Progressive government creates an uplifting social spiral. Positive energy begets positive energy. Just as the current negative energy begets more negative energy.
Progressive government is competent and effective, it is about results, not rhetoric, it is not merely the articulation of aspirations but rather the actualization of those aspirations.
My father called himself a pragmatic progressive - progressive government by definition must be functional.
Progressive government does not raise hopes and dreams only to leave them dashed on the rocks of reality.
Progressive government does not make promises it cannot fulfill, it does not advocate for proposals that cannot work, or launch a mission it fails to complete.
To do so would actually be regressive, fueling the cynics, disheartening the believers and failing those in need.
President Obama recently said that we can, and should, "push the envelope" and be "bold in our vision", but that "we also have to be rooted in reality."
It has been true through time.
Governor Theodore Roosevelt said that "a great democracy has got to be progressive, or else it will soon cease to be either great or a democracy."
Our NYS progressive government works because it works: it delivers real results for real people in real time.
Working together, we have achieved the best progressive state government in the nation.
As Governor Al Smith used to say, "Let's look at the record."
The national progressive dream of free college tuition is a New York reality.
While other governments still debate the gun issue, we enacted the nation's best gun safety law with bipartisan support after the Sandy Hook massacre but before Orlando, El Paso, Parkland, Las Vegas, Dayton, Pittsburgh, and countless other massacres.
You cannot count the number of lives we saved in New York with the SAFE Act, but you could have been able to count the number of lives we would have lost if we didn't act.
Thank God we did.
We led the nation forward passing marriage equality, we enacted the best women's rights law, and we codified a woman's right to choose in Roe v. Wade.
We are instituting the most aggressive climate change program in the nation. Not by setting rhetorical goals, but with concrete action.
We enacted the best minimum wage law and lifted a record 380,000 New Yorkers out of poverty. Congratulations.
We passed the strongest paid family leave program in the country and defended labor's right to organize against the Janus decision.
We built and developed more roads, bridges, airports, and rail than any state, and more than New York has built in generations.
And we did it with our union brothers and sisters.
And we did it with the nation's most aggressive minority and women-owned business participation goal.
We are still driving FDR's 1932 Packard forward - faster and farther than ever before.
And we did all of this and we silenced the skeptics. There was no Big Government Boogeyman—we didn't raise taxes, and in fact, we have cut tax rates for every New Yorker, reduced middle class taxes to the lowest level since 1947, the lowest corporate rate since 1968, managed the government to a 2% growth rate - lower than past Republican administrations - and brought NY the strongest economy in history.
Remember the only person who raised taxes in NY this past decade was Donald Trump when he literally put SALT in the wounds he created and raised taxes by ending the historic deductibility of state and local taxes.
In his book Walden, Thoreau wrote about dreamers and idealists - "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."
That is NY - we are idealists and realists, we are dreamers and doers.
We have accomplished more together than we could have imagined and now we must do even more.
Our current challenges are daunting - but nothing New York at her best can't handle.
In Leonard Cohen's song "Democracy" he writes "Sail on, sail on, mighty ship of State to the shores of need, past the reefs of greed through the squalls of hate."
The ship of NY will sail on.
Our expedition this year begins by addressing the issues causing anxiety and frustration, making progress, building confidence, and thus showing society the positive path forward.
This year we will set a new nation-leading response to the transcendent threat of our times: climate change.
No economic strategy, no social justice reform, no education policy will be worth a damn if we don't have a planet that we can live on.
It is the most pressing generational challenge, for which our children will hold us accountable.
In fact, they already are. Three months ago, thousands of New York's schoolchildren walked out of classrooms to make their point clear.
Among them was 14-year-old climate activist Alexandria Villasenor, New York's own founder of Earth Uprising. Let's recognize her, and all of our student-leaders here today.
We know the climate challenge - we lived it with Superstorm Sandy, Lake Ontario's rising levels, the Mohawk Valley flash flooding.
Over 60% of our counties have been flooded twice in the past 10 years, I have been in five so called 100-year floods. The numbers just don't add up.
First, we must be ready to handle these increasing, life-threatening, emergency situations. It is a new and growing challenge for our state operations. I will propose a plan to increase and update our emergency response capacity, so our brave men and women have the right equipment to do their jobs.
Our emergency response team is the best in the nation and our first responders deserve all the credit.
I have been there, time and again, seeing their heroism in dangerous conditions in the dark of night.
I was with them in Herkimer County in November, when streets became rivers and infants were handed through windows to first responders in boats to be brought to safety.
They put their own lives at risk to save others - and they do it skillfully and selflessly.
We have our Emergency Management Director, Michael Kopy, DHSES Commissioner, Major General Patrick Murphy, National Guard Commander, Major General Ray Shields, and the State Police swift water rescue team here, and let's ask them to stand and be recognized.
At the same time, we must stop handling episodic emergencies and realize that the entire planet is in a state of emergency. As we speak, Australia is burning. Think globally - act locally.
We must accelerate our transition to renewable energy, because the clock is ticking. NYSERDA and NYPA will provide additional incentives to get more renewable projects built and built faster, focusing on opportunities upstate, complementing our world-leading offshore wind program.
And they will build new transmission lines to get the power to consumers who need it downstate.
Last year, we banned plastic bags and this year we must end the thousands of tons of Styrofoam that are used annually, creating toxic containments and littering our neighborhoods and waterways. I will propose eliminating single use Styrofoam food containers and packing materials by 2022. Let's get it done this session.
We must also now begin restoring the natural balance we disrupted in the first place.
The Earth is out of balance and we caused it.
How brilliant was Mother Nature? Listen to this. The original clam and oyster population of NY Harbor was capable of filtering the water of the entire harbor in about three days.
Until we destroyed it.
Stream and creeks would handle storm surges, until we blocked them.
Wetlands filtered pollutants, until we eliminated them.
I am proposing an ambitious $3B Bond act - the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act - to be on the ballot this November to fund natural restoration and resiliency programs all across the state.
We must develop the solution to harmful algae blooms before they destroy our waterways and I will challenge Clarkson University and SUNY ESF to do just that. We must expand artificial reef development to strengthen our marine ecosystem. We must restore fisheries, streams and wetlands. We must conserve more forest areas. We must replant more trees. We must stop the nitrogen runoffs.
The Restore Mother Nature Bond Act will fund those investments and more around the state.
The Restore Mother Nature Bond Act will fund those investments and more.
It's our responsibility and challenge to leave our planet cleaner, and greener, and more sustainable for our future generations.
We must, we can, we will. Let's take a great step forward this year.
People say you have to choose between a strong economy and a healthy planet. Nothing could be further from the truth. The economy of tomorrow is the green economy.
This year, let's go big with an ambitious expansion of electric vehicles and attract the growing industry. It's a win-win for our environment and our economy.
To lead the nation, we need a national leader and I will ask Stanley Whittingham, Binghamton Professor and recently named Nobel Laureate to give us the most aggressive road map to the E-vehicle future. Let's recognize him.
The New York Power Authority should plan and build a statewide functional network of charging stations.
Let's use our collective government purchasing power, and make sure that 25% of public transit bus fleets are electrified by 2025 and 100 percent by 2035.
Let's make $100 million in Green Bank financing available to locate or expand EV manufacturers and suppliers in the state.
And let's train the workers of tomorrow and create an auto tech and charging station installation training program to train 2,000 workers a year. Let's make sure our people benefit from this wave of innovation.
Our successful economic agenda is the engine that pulls the train.
We have had 36 consecutive quarters of job growth - that's the longest period of growth in 80 years.
Unemployment in our state has dropped by more than half, from 8.4% to 4%.
Wages are up. Millennials are returning to Upstate New York.
And the fuel that makes our economic engine work are our small businesses, which employ over half of the private sector workforce.
Small businesses need extra help, so let's cut their tax rate from 6.5% to 4% - nearly 40% - this year, to allow them to expand and grow.
And let's continue our efforts to grow the strength of the middle class and cut their taxes again, for individuals making up to $150k to 6.09%, and for individuals making up to $300k to 6.41%.
But we're also going to make sure that scofflaws who don't pay their school tax bill won't get STAR benefits.
Upstate NY has not historically shared the economic success of Downstate.
But the good news is that the Upstate economy is in the midst of a rebound. Jobs are up and unemployment is down in Upstate, cut by more than half since 2010, from 8% to 3.7%. Congratulations!
But we must remember it is our state effort that changed the Upstate economic trajectory.
We stopped, and reversed, decades of decline.
We have invested more in Upstate NY than any administration in history, and we should all be proud.
We are one state, one balance sheet, one family, and our investment is paying dividends.
But our job is not yet done. We must continue our economic growth with our successful REDC and DRI funding.
Upstate, we need more investment in roads, bridges, and mass transit.
We will continue to invest all across Upstate, from:
- Building the Skydome a state-of-the-art drone testing facility in the Mohawk Valley, to
- A new Education and Workforce Training Center in Syracuse, to
- Rebuilding the Whiteface Mountain mid-station lodge in the North Country, to
- Redeveloping Buffalo's waterfront, to
- Building on the Finger Lakes Forward plan for a downtown Innovation Zone, by bringing three tech companies into the city of Rochester creating over 700 jobs in the city, to
- Investing $9 million to combat invasive algae growth in Lake George, to
- Purchasing nearly 3,000 acres of land to boost tourism and recreation in the Mid-Hudson Valley.
This year we have a new $300 million investment to Reimagine the Erie Canal, which will repurpose the canal that drove the Upstate economy to now grow tourism and assist in water management to handle extreme weather.
And to facilitate tourism and growth across the state, we must improve our transit system by investing in and building high-speed railways. These trains are not the future of transit - they are the present. But we have fallen embarrassingly behind our international counterparts like China, England, and Japan. So we will empanel a team of engineers to reexamine past high-speed rail plans, question and rethink every assumption and method, and recommend a new plan for how to build faster, greener, more reliable high-speed rail in New York. We will return New York to its rightful place as the world's leader in transportation innovation.
And let's build more new Upstate airports - the front door to our global economy - with a second round of airport renovations.
We are already bringing the internet to every corner of Upstate, and now we must bring 100% cell service to every corner of the State.
We've invested hundreds of millions to bring high speed internet, so let's protect our investment, by making sure the internet remains free and open to all by codifying my net neutrality executive order into law.
And when we expand cell service, let's stop the scourge of robocalls flooding our phones and disrupting our lives, by requiring companies to deploy the latest technology to stop it or face stiff financial penalties.
And we must continue our unprecedented support of the rapidly-growing craft beverage industry by eliminating antiquated Prohibition-era rules that stifle their growth.
Our economy flourishes when we continue to develop, build and advance. We lead the nation in constructing new airports, roads, and bridges.
We are creating a new New York, and we are already seeing it materialize all throughout the state.
As the early generations before left us a powerfully built state, we will leave our children a state even stronger.
Long after we are gone, our physical accomplishments will be undeniable legacies giving our children and our children's children the economic infrastructure to be globally competitive.
We must keep going.
Downstate, we must continue investing in mass transit with the largest MTA capital plan in history: over $50B.
Completing the long overdue East Side Access project.
A new LIRR Third Track.
Four new Metro North Stations in the Bronx.
An ambitious New Empire Station Complex in Manhattan, replacing the torment of the old Penn Station.
And as we do that, let's keep our straphangers safe by banning repeat sex offenders from the MTA.
Subway cars should not be feeding grounds for predators.
We want people to take mass transit - well, you should be able to commute to work without being harassed, molested, or groped.
Let's finish the Hudson River Park - too long overdue, our exciting Vital Brooklyn Housing and Healthcare Initiative and our South Bronx/Hunt's Point Transformation. Let's clean up the Bronx River, and working with the Hudson River Park Trust, in consultation with the City of New York, the relevant community boards and representatives, the local elected officials and Assembly and Senate members, and other stakeholders, let's develop a reuse plan for Pier 76.
And let's invest directly in our greatest asset, our workforce, by making New York's Buy American law permanent.
And when public dollars are used to underwrite construction projects, it is our obligation to pay a fair wage. Let's get it done this year.
While we continue our economic agenda, we must move forward on our economic justice crusade.
Large corporations have dominated and taken advantage of workers for too long.
Today's economy works brilliantly for innovators, shareholders, and billionaires, but it abuses workers.
As FDR, Al Smith, and Frances Perkins protected workers after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, we too must protect workers from today's threat: economic exploitation.
This year more than 40% of the workforce will be in jobs related to the new Gig Economy - an economy which has spurred growth and many innovations, but which excludes many workers from the progress of fair pay and benefits.
Too many corporations are increasing their profits at the expense of the employee and the taxpayer. That must end.
A driver is not an independent contractor simply because she drives her own car on the job.
A newspaper carrier is not an independent contractor because they ride their own bicycle.
A domestic worker is not an independent contractor because she brings her own broom and mop.
It is exploitive and abusive and a scam and a fraud, and it must stop here and it must stop now.
We must continue to combat worker exploitation, especially theft of wages. Even when a worker has prevailed against their employer in court, justice is often elusive. Let's pass a law to make it easier for victims of wage theft to be made whole and let's get it done this year.
Finally, as new technology emerges, we must encourage innovation without compromising on safety. There is no need for us to choose between legalizing e-bikes and keeping riders, pedestrians, and drivers alike safe, and I will propose a bill that does just that.
We passed the most comprehensive paid family leave law in the nation. Let's go further this year. Let's pass a comprehensive paid sick leave law to grant 5 days of paid sick leave for employees of small businesses and 7 days for large companies.
It's good for employees, and it is good for business.
Too often our most vulnerable New Yorkers are subject to predatory businesses, and they get shut out of the banking system that enables upward mobility.
I'm tired of seeing check cashing stores on almost every corner in our struggling communities.
They demand too big a slice of already too small paychecks.
If banks want to be licensed to do business in New York, then they should be willing to serve all of New York's communities, or they will serve none of New York's communities.
And while we expand banking opportunities, we must also reign in abusive debt collectors. We license barbers, home inspectors and used car dealers in New York - so it makes no sense that we don't have the authority to license an industry that can cause working and middleclass families financial ruin. Let's pass it this year.
Our economic growth would be a hollow victory if we did not continue our social progress.
For decades, communities of color were disproportionately affected by the unequal enforcement of marijuana laws.
Last year we righted that injustice when we decriminalized possession.
This year, let's work with our neighbors New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania to coordinate a safe and fair system, and let's legalize adult use of marijuana.
And I propose creating the first of its kind Global Cannabis and Hemp Center for Science, Research, and Education with SUNY, so New York can lead the way.
Let's be honest, women are still victims ofcultural and institutional discrimination, and New York must lead in ending this continuing, shameful, and repugnant injustice.
Currently, the New York State Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, color, creed, or religion, but not sex. This is not an oversight - it's an injustice. Let's fix this anomaly once and for all by adding sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity to the protected classes in the New York State Constitution. We failed to pass it last year - we must not fail this year, and let's pass it in the budget this year and put it on the ballot and let our citizens decide.
Let's end the "pink tax". Pink or blue, the price should be the same.
We have worked together to remove the sexist bias in our rape laws. Now it's time that we recognize that the law makes it almost impossible to prove rape where alcohol is involved. If a woman is intoxicated, the law doesn't allow a conviction for rape unless the woman is literally unconscious.
Let's change the law to let the jury decide whether there was consent - and let's do it this year, because justice delayed for women is justice denied for women.
Let's move forward and finally pass a law to legalize gestational surrogacy to allow same-sex couples and those struggling with infertility to conceive a child through assisted reproduction. We passed marriage equality first, yet we are one of only three states that ban surrogacy.
Let's show once again that New York stands tall in solidarity with the LGBTQ community, and let's do it this session.
Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour has proven to be the most effective weapon against poverty in modern history, lifting nearly 145,000 children out of poverty.
To do even more, let's increase our wraparound health services through our First 1,000 Days health program, increase community schools, and afterschool programming.
And let's go even further, by expanding the Empire Child Care tax credit, to provide an average $400 benefit per family with children under four years old.
We do not view society from the penthouse - we view it from the ground level.
And too many of our brothers and sisters are on the street.
Homelessness is a growing problem in some parts of our state.
I have worked on this issue all my adult life - starting a not-for-profit in NYC in my 20's, doing a NYC plan for Mayor Dinkins' Homeless Commission, and a national plan to address homelessness as President Clinton's HUD Secretary, implemented all across the country.
There is no policy or political debate to be had. The homeless issue has been studied, debated, litigated and addressed for 40 years.
We know what works, and what doesn't work, from experience. We have lived through both.
We have seen the problem get better, and we have seen the problem get worse.
There are only two factors for a solution: commitment of resources and competence of administration.
This year, I will propose that we commit the largest amount of funding to help the homeless and create affordable housing in the history of the State of New York, period.
That is who we are and what we believe.
But we will also honor the state's Constitutional responsibility and demand a higher level of competence from local governments because without the right programs the money will be wasted, and the travesty will continue.
No more political ideology, we need programs proven to work.
Enough is enough - we will not go backwards. We must go forward. Let's take a giant step this year.
We also have new challenges to face in public safety.
New York has proven that it is not hostage to a self-serving gun lobby. This year we will continue to protect our people from the scourge of gun violence.
If a New York State resident can't legally buy a gun because of prior New York convictions, why would we allow them to purchase with the same conviction from another state?
That makes no sense, and we should fix it and fix it now.
And let's stop the new threat of untraceable "ghost" guns before they reach critical mass by requiring that 3D-printed firearms and unfinished frames and receivers are registered and have a serial number.
Ten years ago, when I was Attorney General, we worked together and enacted the e-Stop law to keep sex offenders off child playgrounds in cyberspace, where they would be likely to find potential victims. Last year alone, we removed 22,000 sexual predators from the web. The law has been successful, but as social media expand, these predators are lurking in new ways and using different tools to exploit children. Let's expand the law so registered sex offenders must disclose relevant online activity, and to keep predators off sensitive sites with vulnerable populations.
And we will work with Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore on her plan to modernize the state's judiciary. Although many have tried and failed in the past, I know our great Chief Judge can get it done. Let's give her a round of applause.
As our nation confronts the toxic mix of anxiety, fear, and the sea of division in which we find ourselves, we see mistrust and tensions growing. Basic relationships are being stressed. Lack of trust in our institutions is growing. Charges of fake news, government corruption, and election tampering fuels mistrust. Many of our communities are facing challenges in the relationship between police and the community they serve. Public safety is still job #1 for government and members of our minority communities are still the #1 victims of crime. Respect and trust are the foundation of the relationship between police and the community they serve, and they must be reciprocal: the relationship door swings both ways. We have seen flashpoints in NYC and other cities. Viral videos inflame tense relationships. Our Attorney General can be an invaluable resource. I will ask our Attorney General Tish James to facilitate the relationship between police and community members for any locality that has issues and needs help. I urge them to take advantage of our Attorney General. She is the top legal officer and she has superb communication skills. She stands ready to help. Let's recognize the AG for her great work.
Finally, let's help those who risk their lives to protect us—our veterans and law enforcement—by providing additional support for suicide prevention, and by eliminating veteran homelessness.
Education is the civil rights issue of our time, and we should all be proud that we invest more per student than any state in the nation.
But let's be honest: it's shameful that we do not distribute the funding in the most progressive way.
We use complicated funding formulas to disguise the ugly truth.
The reality is wealthier districts have much higher funded schools than poorer districts.
In our state, wealthier schools spend as much as $36,588 per student, while in poorer schools, we spend as little as $13,033 per student.
The progressive path is clear: our state funds should be used to reduce funding disparities.
State dollars are only 40% of our education funds - about 60% comes from local taxes.
If we are the progressive capital, let's act that way and not play politics.
We must use state funds to raise those at the bottom.
Fund poorer schools and close the education gap. And let's do it this year!
A college education is today what high school education was 60 years ago; it is essential to optimize one's talents and opportunities in life.
We made history with free college tuition for tens of thousands of working and middle-class families making up to $125,000 a year—the first of its kind in the nation.
This year I propose we go to the next level and make college tuition free for families making up to $150,000.
At the same time, let's continue to open the door to higher education for disadvantaged, deserving students, who otherwise wouldn't dream of going to college, by investing in our Opportunity Programs and expanding workforce training centers.
This is a robust agenda - I know. But we don't dictate the needs of the state, we only dictate our response.
We know what we have to do.
We know the destination for our ship of state. But it will not be clear sailing, there are obstacles in our way.
As we begin our journey this year, there are challenges we must overcome and issues requiring immediate attention - a significant financial deficit, new public health emergencies, federal challenges, and a confidence crisis of a distrustful electorate wary of government and politics.
Today, we face a $6B gap attributable to our Medicaid cost.
Thanks to our good work, 95% of our citizens have healthcare coverage.
That is a remarkable achievement we should all be proud of.
It is a standard that previous generations could only have dreamed of reaching. But we must pay for it intelligently and prudently.
We now face federal cuts and must correct for cost increases incurred when local governments were held harmless by the state for Medicaid increases.
Six years ago, we froze the cost of Medicaid to local governments to help local governments meet their property tax cap.
For six years, we have been paying all the increased costs in local Medicaid spending and holding local governments harmless.
This year alone we will spend over $4 billion in covering the increase in local government's share.
We are paying $177.5 million on behalf of Erie, $175.9 million on behalf of Westchester, $2 billion on behalf of New York City in their local costs this year.
Also, the local governments still administer their local program, even though they no longer share the costs - and we have seen dramatically higher cost increases recently.
You cannot separate administration from accountability. It is too easy to write the check when you don't sign it.
The situation is unsustainable.
We have restructured Medicaid before with our MRT program, and we must do it again.
At the same time we must shine a light on healthcare costs and quality, and I will direct DOH and DFS create a consumer-friendly website where New Yorkers can easily compare the cost and quality of healthcare procedures.
As part of meeting those cost increases, we must fight the staggering increase in prescription drug prices. We pay more for our prescription drugs in this nation than in any other country. We will cap co-pays for insulin. It's literally a matter of life and death. We will also introduce legislation to give New York Department of Health and Department of Financial Services more tools to take action against unscrupulous drug companies. If the federal government won't control them, we will, and if our federal government can't stop the greed of the drug companies, New York will explore purchasing in Canada to reduce our costs and protect our people because that is our job.
This will be the most aggressive plan to lower prescription drug costs in the nation, and New York will lead the way.
We must continue our aggressive actions to protect New Yorkers from the dangers of smoking, especially our young people, by cracking down on illegal sales of cigarettes.
We must also confront the new serious and deadly public health challenges facing our state.
After decades spent fighting big tobacco companies and millions of lives lost, big tobacco has come back to life in a different wrapper - vaping products.
We know well the danger of nicotine addiction and don't yet know the extent of the dangers of vaping, but young Americans are dying while we find out.
While the president did a political pirouette, New York led the way and banned flavored vaping.
Vaping companies are challenging our ban in court.
We will continue our legal fight, but let's also pass a clear, strict law restricting the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, restricting advertisements targeted to minors, and banning dangerous chemicals or products.
Let's do it first thing this session, and let's save lives.
Over the past several years we've taken significant steps to tackle the opioid crisis, and it's working. Last year we saw the first decline in opioid deaths in 10 years.
Now let's ban all variations of deadly Fentanyl and synthetic drugs, and let's expand critical access to medication assisted treatment.
Let's also remove all unnecessary barriers to life-saving Medication Assisted Treatment.
Another imminent and critical situation we must deal with is assuring full participation in the upcoming Census.
The federal government has generated much anxiety within the new American community.
We must organize to be certain every New Yorker is counted, and I will propose additional funds in the budget to make sure democracy is protected.
We must also be diligent in our efforts to reverse the Federal Government's unjust, unconstitutional taxation of our state through the SALT assault.
We passed the first property tax cap in history and they, in one swoop, raised our taxes to send more money to their politically favored states.
Our Federal representatives must deliver for us.
The US Senate must overturn SALT this year.
And we must continue to reinforce New Yorkers' faith in our cornerstone of democracy—elections. We took an important step with early voting last year, and it has been a success. This year, let's make sure every vote is counted by mandating automatic manual recounts in close elections.
To accomplish all this the public must trust our government, especially in these cynical times.
Hyper-partisanship overcomes reason.
The negative forces sow doubt and suspicion.
Let Albany set a simple, new, inarguable national standard.
Every state commissioner, the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the Attorney General, the Comptroller, every Assemblymember and Senator, and any elected official who earns over $100,000 a year in our state should set a new level of disclosure and transparency by making their New York State taxes available to be seen by the public - because we have nothing to hide.
Let New Yorkers know who is paying their officials, and who their representatives actually work for, because you can't serve two masters.
We asked for President Trump's taxes, and we were right - but let's practice what we preach - let's lead by example and show them ours.
Let's make history and redefine the symbolism of President Lincoln calling for the men from Albany, to be a call for representatives of the most transparent government in the country - and that's what the New York State "Nothing to Hide" law will do. Let's lead the way.
So my friends, this year will be challenging, no doubt. The full agenda I propose today is literally a book that you will be presented, there's prescription drug reform, medical transparency, passing the ERA, more job training, veterans assistance, sex offender laws, special prosecutor, e-bikes, voter registration and election reform, wage theft - the list goes on. But I am confident that we can do all of this.
We know we can do it because we have done it.
Our state government has accomplished the impossible - over and over again.
Think about what we are already doing together.
Our undeniable accomplishments define our success and build confidence in progressive government by making a real difference in people's lives. We should be proud. Give yourselves a round of applause.
But one thing keeps me up at night - the enemy within.
So let me end where I began. Our ship of state can handle the waves of anxiety but what is creating the national storm are the winds of division.
The angry winds of fear and frustration and despair that push us to blame one another for our problems rather than inspire us to come together and resolve them.
The negativity that scapegoats, that demonizes and makes our diversity a weakness rather than a strength.
We see the results in the rise in the KKK, in the attacks on the LGBTQ and Muslim communities. We see it at Syracuse University, the housing discrimination on Long Island, and the attacks on our Jewish brothers and sisters.
This growing fear and division is an American cancer spreading through this country's body politic.
Racism and discrimination are not new, they are a virus that exists in society, sometimes dormant, but a virus that manifests itself when society's immune system is under attack and stressed - and it turns one cell against the other.
It is this country consuming itself from within.
If we do not confront it and defeat it - it will defeat us.
NY must be the antidote.
Hate and discrimination have no place in New York.
It is ignorant, intolerant, and illegal.
While we have had a disturbing number of discrimination attacks, the greatest increase has been in the number of anti-Semitic incidents.
Government's first responsibility is to protect our people, and we will.
We will prosecute these crimes to the greatest extent of the law, and we must now change the law to address this new and growing threat.
Let's acknowledge displays of hate-filled mass violence for what they are - domestic terrorism - and let's pass the first-in-the-nation domestic terrorism law to include mass violence motivated by hate, and send the strongest message across the state and nation, that New York will not stand by when our people are victimized by hate.
I will propose additional resources for the State Police to increase the capacity of the Hate Crimes Task Force.
We must provide additional funding for security at our schools and places of worship.
We must confront the growing ignorance and intolerance, and we must do it on all levels of society.
Before we pass the education budget, let's make sure our schools are teaching our children what America truly stands for.
I want our schools to add to their curriculum a lesson that teaches our young people our civic values and history on diversity, and that a fundamental premise of this nation is religious freedom.
How our earliest settlers fled here for that freedom and were among the first immigrants to the new land.
That besides Native Americans, we are all immigrants to this land.
To teach our children the basis of different religions and races and what it truly means to be an American.
To teach them the beauty and strength of our diversity.
To teach them what George Washington wrote after he visited a synagogue and met with the congregation, "that in this country, every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid."
We need our faith-based leaders to help us and to provide leadership in this troubled time, and to preach to their congregations the anti-moral and anti-religious nature of these hateful acts.
How Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity all teach one premise: that the strongest four-letter word is not hate, but love.
And let's do it now, before it's too late.
We have our faith leaders here today. I thank them for their help, and ask them to stand and be recognized.
We must increase our cultural understanding.
I am directing Battery Park City to develop a plan to expand our magnificent Jewish Museum on the Holocaust so it can host school children from all across the state.
Let's make a visit to the Museum part of a rounded education.
To know the history of the Jewish people is to know our mutual love and connection.
New York would not be New York without the Jewish community.
NY can stem this ugly tide and calm the sea of division.
The ugly violence did not start in New York, but it must end in New York.
We know that unity is the only path forward.
It is a lesson that the voices of anger and division who try to wrap themselves in the flag should learn because they fail to understand what the red, white and blue truly means.
Listen and learn the American Pledge of Allegiance:
The lesson they missed in grade school.
"One nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all."
Justice for all - not for some - not only for the wealthy, the well-off or the well-bred.
Cannot be divided.
Cannot be segregated.
Cannot be separated.
It is that simple and that profound.
Our founding fathers said clearly that the idea of unity was the key to America's future.
In 1782, on the first seal of the United States, they said it in three simple words - E pluribus Unum, out of many one.
This federal government and our nation seems to have forgotten that essential American principle.
So in this time of turmoil let New York State remind the nation of who we are, and let's add E pluribus Unum to the seal of our state and proclaim at this ugly time the simple truth that without unity we are nothing.
That is the New York way. Because New York is the gateway that welcomed all.
And hear me today loud and clear:
There is no place for hate in our state.
We have zero tolerance for racism or discrimination, for ugly stereotyping by newspapers, for hate mongers, homophobes, anti-Semites, or bigots.
When someone attacks one of us, they attack each of us and all of us.
When they attack Muslims - they attack me and you.
When they attack the LGBTQ community - they attack me and you.
When they attack Latinos - they attack me and you.
When they attack Asian Americans - they attack me and you.
When they attack African Americans - they attack me and you.
When they attack Italian Americans - they attack me and you.
When they attack Puerto Ricans - they attack me and you.
When they attacked Orthodox Jewish people, on the seventh night of Chanukah, in Monsey, in Rockland County, in the home of Rabbi Rottenberg, they attacked me and you.
And when you try to divide the great State of New York, we will stand up tall, we will stand up unified, we will stand up and we will fight.
And we will win, because we are right.
And because that is the New York way.