In 10th State of the State Address, Governor Advances Bold Agenda to Continue New York's Role as Progressive Capital of the Nation
Governor's Agenda Continues Record of Fiscal Responsibility While Investing in 21st Century Infrastructure, Cutting Middle Class and Small Business Taxes, Providing Educational Opportunity to All, Growing New York's Green Economy & Advancing Equal Rights Protections
Proposals Include Domestic Terrorism Law; 'Restore Mother Nature' Bond Act; Legalizing Cannabis; Expanded Excelsior Free College Tuition; Paid Sick Leave & Fighting Child Poverty; Achieving 100% Statewide Cell Phone Service; Protecting Gig Economy Workers; Addressing Veteran Homelessness & Suicides; 'Nothing to Hide' Tax Returns Disclosure; Empire Station Complex; and Reimagining the Erie Canal
2020 State of the State Book Available Here
Governor Cuomo: "New York has demonstrated the progressive philosophy for generations. From its birth in the early 19th century, New York demonstrated a true progressive movement. What does it mean? 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 to further the collective interest. That is our definition of what it means to be a progressive."
Governor Cuomo: "That is New York - we are idealists and we are realists, we are dreamers and we are doers. We have accomplished more together than we could have imagined and now we are called on by circumstance to do even more. Our current challenges are daunting - but nothing New York can't handle at her best."
Governor Cuomo: "Racism and discrimination are not new, they are a virus that exists in society and sometimes the virus is dormant, but a virus that manifests itself when society's immune system is under attack and stressed, and then it turns one cell against the other. It is this country consuming itself from within. And if we do not confront it, and if we do not defeat it, it will defeat us — there is no nation on this globe that can beat this nation, but this nation can defeat itself. New York must be the antidote. Hate and discrimination have no place in New York — it is ignorant, it is intolerant, and it is illegal."
Governor Cuomo: "Listen and learn to the American Pledge of Allegiance It says, 'One nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.' Justice for all. Not justice for some, not justice for the wealthy, not justice for the well-off, not justice for the well-bred. Justice for all. That's what it says. That pledge says indivisible. Indivisible is the word. Indivisible, to not be divided, to not be segregated, to not be separated. United. It is that simple and it is 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.
AUDIO of the Governor's remarks is available here.
PHOTOS of today's event are available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is below:
Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very, very much. Well happy New Year to all of you. I hope you have recovered from the celebration and are ready to get back to work because it is going to be a challenging year. 2020 came in and it didn't take long before we all realized that challenges were coming our way. We had earthquakes in Puerto Rico, which was the last thing the island needed after everything they've gone through. We already sent people to help, but we want the people of Puerto Rico to know that we are 100 percent behind them, we always have been and we always will be.
Marcos Crespo, Rubén Díaz, Nydia Velázquez and I were on the first plane that went to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, and we're going to be going back to Puerto Rico with New Yorkers once again to help them and I'm proud of that.
These are frightening times with what we see going on with Iran and the possible ramifications of that escalating conflict, possible consequences and precautions that we have to take here in this state because we are New York and we have people who would like to make us part of a terrorist example. But in the meantime we pray for the women and men who are in uniform, may God keep them all safe wherever they are stationed.
But we shall overcome, my friends, we always do. We are the great State of New York. Pastor Turner - thank you for those inspirational words. Let's thank the Pastor for his inspiration.
Rabbi Rottenberg - I want you to know that I speak for all the people of the State of New York when I tell you that we stand in solidarity and love with you and your community. It is appalling and offensive what has happened and this state will respond with its full might and breadth and capacity, because what happened and your community is intolerable. We will not stand for it and we will defend you.
Let's begin by acknowledging some special guests. We had our great singer - Madison Vandenberg - let's give her a round of applause. Our Lieutenant Governor who's been a tremendous partner to me and you, she has been all over the state - Kathy Hochul - let's give her a round of applause. Former Assembly Member and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. Our new Attorney General Tish James. Our great Senate Temporary President and Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins. Our great Speaker Carl Heastie. Our Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan. Congratulations to the new Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay. We're proud to have with us our Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and our judges of the Court of Appeals, thank you for being here.
Members of my team who have been especially helpful in setting today's agenda. Our extraordinarily talented Secretary to the Governor, Melissa DeRosa. Melissa also happens to be the first female Secretary, I don't know what took those other guys so long, to tell you the truth. To a man who I believe is the best Budget Director in the history of the State of New York - Robert Mujica. To Jim Malatras who has the best policy mind of anyone I've worked with in state government or in Washington, President of SUNY Empire State College, Jim Malatras.
I also want to acknowledge two great public servants who are retiring. First one is a true trailblazer who was the first African American to be elected to statewide office in New York in this state. A statesman who served our country as Ambassador to the United Nations, a public servant to the State of New York for 50 years as a State Senator, Comptroller and most recently Chairman of the SUNY Board of Trustees - Carl McCall. We're going to miss you. Let's show him our appreciation. Carl McCall also whooped me in a race for Governor.
And Senator Betty Little - a schoolteacher who answered the call to public service over 30 years ago with principle, decency and compassion, that's what Betty Little is all about. The longest-serving female Republican Senator ever - 18 years. Working across the aisle, Senator Little has accomplished more for the North Country than has been done in many decades. Betty Little will be missed by everyone, myself included.
I'd like to recognize one final guest. Eleven days ago, we saw our worst fears realized in Monsey, when five innocents were attacked and injured, as we heard from Rabbi Rottenberg. One is still in critical condition. But we also saw the strength to fight back when a man stepped forward and put his own life at risk to save others, and took on and thwarted a machete-wielding attacker. We applaud his heart, his courage - he is the definition of New York bravery. He is here with us today - let's recognize Josef Gluck.
They've been recognized but I'd also like to recognize my family who is here. My three daughters - Cara, Mariah, Michaela. My nieces - Kristin and Amanda. My brother in law Brian O'Donohue. And my momma, Matilda Cuomo. My mother has five children, but I am my mother's favorite. She told me so, she told me not to tell the others, they'd get jealous. So I'll never tell the others, except Chris. He won't get jealous. His ego will not allow him to get jealous. More on that later. Now to the business at hand. Happy New Year to all.
As 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 crimes - 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, 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, my friends, when NYS is called upon to lead - to set a course for a troubled nation searching its way through the fog of confusion. New York, 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, New York has demonstrated the progressive philosophy for generations. From its birth in the early 19th century, New York demonstrated a true progressive movement. What does it mean? 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 to further the collective interest. That is our definition of what it means to be a progressive. 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 that is left is easily filled by voices of despair, anger, blame and division. And that is where we are.
On the other hand, progressive government sees the problems facing society and causing the anxiety, and rather than blaming and rather than scapegoating, it confronts the problems honestly and accomplishes tangible progress. And when you make progress, it builds hope and it builds confidence, and then it shows people a positive way forward. Progressive government creates an uplifting social spiral. Positive energy begets positive energy. Just as the current negative energy begets more negative energy. It's whether you are lifting us up or bringing us down. 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, God bless his soul, called himself a pragmatic progressive - pragmatic progressive - when I was younger I didn't understand what those words meant. Now I do. Progressive government by definition must be functional. That's what progressive government is all about. 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 it's not sure can work and it does not launch a mission it fails to complete. To do so would actually be regressive government, fueling the cynics, disheartening the believers and failing those in need. President Obama recently said, we can, and should push the envelope and be bold in our vision, but that we also have to be rooted in reality. That's where progressives live. And it has been true through time.
Governor Teddy Roosevelt said, "a great democracy has got to be progressive, or else it will soon cease to be either great or a democracy." Our New York State progressive government works because it works: it delivers real results for real people in real time and it made a difference in their lives. That's why it works.
As Governor Al Smith used to say, "Let's look at the record." Because we have achieved the best progressive government in the United States of America. We have accomplished what they only dream of accomplishing. 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 pass the SAFE Act. And thank God we did.
We led the nation forward passing marriage equality, we enacted the best women's rights law in the United States of America, and we codified a woman's right to choose in Roe v. Wade so whatever the federal government does we're going to protect a woman's right to choose. We are instituting the most aggressive climate change program in the nation. Not by setting rhetorical goals, not by great aspirations, but with concrete action. We enacted the best minimum wage law and lifted a record 380,000 New Yorkers out of poverty. We passed the strongest paid family leave program in the country and we defended labor's right to organize against the Janus decision. We built and developed more roads, bridges, airports and rail than any state in the United States, and more than New York built in generations. And we did it arm and arm with our union brothers and sisters. And we did it with the nation's most aggressive minority and women-owned business participation goal in the United States of America.
My friends, we are still driving FDR's 1932 Packard forward - faster and farther than ever before. And we did all of this, active government, progressive government, functional government, 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. We reduced middle class taxes to the lowest level since 1947, we have the lowest corporate tax rate since 1968 and we managed the government to a 2 percent growth rate - lower than past Republican administrations - by running a smarter, more efficient, more effective government. And we brought New York State the strongest economy in its history.
Remember the only person who raised taxes in New York State 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, and he said, "If you have built castles in the sky, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." That is New York - we are idealists and we are realists, we are dreamers and we are doers. We have accomplished more together than we could have imagined and now we are called on by circumstance to do even more. Our current challenges are daunting - but nothing New York can't handle at her best.
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 New York will sail on. And we will do it together this year. Our expedition this year begins by addressing the issues causing anxiety and frustration, showing people we can make progress, building confidence when we make progress and thus showing them the positive way forward.
This year we will set a new nation-leading response to the transcendent threat of our times, which is climate change. Because no economic strategy, no social justice reform, no education policy will be worth a damn if we don't have a planet to 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. She's here with us today. Let's recognize her and all the student-leaders.
We know firsthand the climate challenge - we lived it downstate during Superstorm Sandy, we lived it with Lake Ontario's ever-rising levels, the Mohawk Valley flash flooding. Over 60 percent of our counties have been significantly flooded twice in the past 10 years, I have been in five so called 100-year floods. The numbers just don't add up anymore.
First, we must be ready to handle these increasing, life-threatening, emergency situations. It is a new and growing challenge for our state operations. We never had to do this emergency management function before to this extent. 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 and do them well. Our emergency response team is the best in the nation and our first responders deserve all the credit. I have been there with them, 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 Director Mike Kopy who's with us, our DHSES Commissioner Major General Patrick Murphy, our National Guard Commander Major General Ray Shields and the State Police swift water rescue team here, let me ask them to stand and let's recognize them for their good work.
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 here today, 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 they will build them faster, focusing on opportunities upstate that are complementing our world-leading offshore wind program. And they will then build new transmission lines to get the power upstate to consumers who need it in downstate New York. Its good economics and it's good for the environment. It's good for Upstate and it's good for downstate. Let's do it together.
Last year we banned plastic bags and we were exactly right. And this year we must end the thousands of tons of Styrofoam that are creating toxic contaminants and littering our waterways. 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 - Al Gore used to talk about it when I worked with him in Washington, and he was right - and we caused the imbalance. How brilliant was Mother Nature? Listen to this. The original clam and oyster population of New York Harbor was capable of filtering the water of the entire harbor in about three days. Just imagine that. Amazing. Until we destroyed it. Mother Nature has a plan. She has resiliency built in. We are the ones who destroyed it. Streams and creeks would handle storm surges, until we blocked them. Wetlands filtered pollutants, until we eliminated them.
I am proposing this year an ambitious $3 billion bond act - the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act - to be on the ballot this November to fund natural restoration and resiliency programs all across this state.
We must develop the solution to the harmful algal blooms before they destroy our water source. We must restore fisheries and streams and wetlands. We must conserve more forest areas. We must replant more trees. We must filter drinking water. We must stop the nitrogen runoffs. And that's what the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act will do, those investments and more. It is our responsibility to leave our planet cleaner and greener and more sustainable for our future generations. We must, we can, we will. And we'll start this year.
People say you have to choose between a strong economy and a healthy planet. Baloney. Nothing could be further from the truth. The economy of tomorrow is the green economy. This year, 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 for 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, he's here with us today.
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. Congratulate yourselves. Unemployment in our state has dropped by more than half, from 8.4 percent to 4 percent. 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 to grow, so let's cut their tax rate from 6.5 percent to 4 percent - nearly 40 percent - this year, allow them to expand and grow.
And let's continue our efforts to grow and strengthen the middle class and cut their taxes again, for individuals making up to $150,000, cut taxes to 6.09 percent, and for individuals making up to $300,000, to cut taxes to 6.41 percent. Our middle class is our backbone. We have to keep working with them to keep them strong. And this tax cut will do just that.
Upstate New York 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, unemployment is down. Unemployment in Upstate is cut by more than half from 8% to 3.7%. But must remember it is our state effort that changed the Upstate economic trajectory.
It did not happen on its own. We stopped, and reversed, decades of decline in Upstate New York. We have invested more in Upstate NY than in the history of any administration, and we should all be proud. Because 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 development growth with our successful REDC and DRI funding. And our economy flourishes when we continue to develop, build and advance. We lead the nation in construction, we lead the nation in new project development, we lead the nation in new infrastructure. We are creating a new New York, and we are already seeing it materialize all throughout the state, coming out of the ground where you can see it and touch it.
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. We are completing the long overdue East Side Access project; a new Long Island Railroad Third Track; our new Metro North Stations in the Bronx; an ambitious New Empire Station Complex in Manhattan, replacing the torment and torture of the old Penn Station. Amtrak hates when I say that.
But at the same time 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 and we are right in that desire. And we are improving mass transit to make it work. But you have to be able to commute to work without being harassed, without being molested, and without being groped. That is just common sense.
Let's finish the Hudson River Park. It's too long overdue. Let's finish our Vital Brooklyn Housing and Healthcare Initiative, and our South Bronx/Hunt's Point Transformation - the largest initiative ever by the state in the South Bronx. Upstate, we need more investment in roads, bridges, and mass transit.
Let's build a new drone facility in the Mohawk Valley, a new Education and Workforce Training Center in Syracuse, a Lodge at Whiteface Mountain, let's redevelop Buffalo's waterfront, and reimagine the Erie Canal. And let's build more new Upstate airports. They are the front door to our global economy. That is where business is coming from. Let's do a second round of airport renovations.
We are already bringing the internet to every corner of Upstate, now we must bring 100% cell service to every corner of our great State. And let's invest directly in our greatest asset, our workforce, by making New York's Buy American law permanent once and for all.
While we continue our economic agenda, we must also 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 too often abuses workers. As FDR, Al Smith and Francis Perkins protected workers after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, we too must protect workers from today's threat which is economic exploitation. This year, more than forty percent of the work force will be in jobs related to the so-called gig economy. It's an economy which has spurred growth and many innovations, but it's an economy where too many workers are excluded from the progress of fair pay and independent contractors.
Too many corporations are increasing their profits at the expense of the employee and the taxpayer, and 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 to the job. It is exploitive, abusive, it's a scam, it's fraud. It must stop and it has to stop here and now!
We passed the most comprehensive Paid Family Leave law in the nation, and we should all be proud of it. Let's go further this year and let's pass a comprehensive Paid Sick Leave law to grant 5 days of paid sick leave for employees of small corporations and 7 days for employees of large corporations. It's good for employees and it's 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 would enable upward mobility. I'll tell you the truth, I am tired of seeing check cashing stores on almost every corner of 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.
Our economic growth will be a hollow victory if we do 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 research center for science and education with our State University of New York, so New York can lead the way.
Let's be honest. Women are still victims of cultural and institutional discrimination, and New York must lead in ending this continuing shameful and repugnant injustice. Let's start by ending the so called "Pink Tax" because pink or blue, the price should be the same.
We have worked together to remove the sexist bias in many of 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 or not there was consent, and let's do it this year. Because New York believes justice delayed for women is justice denied for women.
And 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 were one of the first states to pass marriage equality, we changed the entire national dialogue, we stood with the LGBTQ community as their champion. But now we are one of only three states in the United States that bans surrogates. Let's right this wrong, let's show once and for all that New York always stands in solidarity with the LGBTQ community. And let's do it this session.
Raising the minimum wage to 15 dollars 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 wrap-around health services through our first 1,000 days health program, increase community schools and after school programming — and let's go even further, and let's expand the Empire Child Care Tax Credit, to provide an average $400-benefit per family with any child under four years old.
We do not view society from the penthouse, we view it from the ground level — and at the ground level, we see too many of our brothers and sisters living and sleeping on the street. Homelessness is a growing problem in some parts of our state. I have worked on this issue all of my adult life, I started a not-for-profit in New York City in my 20s, I did a New York City plan for Mayor David Dinkins' homeless commission, and I did a national plan to address homelessness as President Clinton's HUD Secretary, which we 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 don't need to reinvent the wheel — we just have to turn it. We know what works, and we know what doesn't work from experience. We have lived through it. We've seen it get better and we've seen it 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 in the history of the State of New York to help the homeless and build affordable housing. That is who we are, that is what we believe, that's what we stand for. But we will also honor the state's constitutional responsibility and demand a higher level of competence and skill and professionalism from local governments because without the right programs, the money will be wasted and the travesty will be continued.
No more political ideology, we need good government, we need programs that work. Enough is enough, we're not going backwards, we have to go forward, we're going to take a giant step this year and we're going to do it together. We also have new challenges in the face of public safety. New York has stood up and 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, then why would we allow them to purchase a gun with the same conviction from another state? It makes no sense. We must fix it. We must fix it this year.
And we will work with our great court of appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and all the judges on her plan to modernize the state's judiciary. Many have tried it before. It needs to be done. I know our great chief can get it done. We will work with her. Let's give her a round of applause.
Education is the civil rights issue of our time, and we should be proud that we invest more per student than any state in the nation. But, at the same time, let's be honest. It is 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 funding schools than poorer districts. That's the fact. That is the truth. In our state, wealthier schools spend as much as $36,000 per student. In a poorer school, we spend as little as $13,000 per student. The progressive path is clear. Use our state funds to reduce the funding disparities. Our state funds are only 40 percent of the funding. 60 percent of the funding comes from local taxes. If we're the progressive capital and we want to beat our chest and say we're the progressive capital, then act that way, and don't play politics with education money. Use state funds to raise those at the bottom. Use state funds to raise those at the bottom. Use state funds to raise those at the bottom. Fund the 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. You need it. It is essential to optimize one's talent and one's opportunity 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. First of its kind in the nation. Just think of the joy that it brought to so many families. Parents who didn't have to worry about how they were going to pay for their child's college tuition. Potential students who would go to sleep at night and not have to worry, can mom and dad do this? Can I afford it? How can I make this work? We said if you can get in, you're going to go regardless of income. It was a beautiful thing, a beautiful thing.
We talk about helping and making a difference in life. Nothing did it more powerfully than that. This year I propose we go to the next level and let's make college tuition free for families making up to $150,000 a year.
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. They work. Let's do more of it.
Now, this is a robust agenda - I know. But we don't dictate the needs of the state, we only dictate our response to those needs. We know what we have to do.
And 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 largely to our Medicaid cost. Now, thanks to our good work, 95% of the citizens of New York have healthcare coverage and that is the first time ever. That is a remarkable achievement and it is a standard that previous generations could only have dreamed of reaching. But now 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.
Remember what we did, six years ago, we froze the cost of Medicaid to local governments to help those 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 million on behalf of Erie, $175 million on behalf of Westchester, $2 billion on behalf of New York City to cover their local costs. 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, why?
You cannot separate administration from accountability. It is too easy to write the check when you don't sign it. Just ask my daughters who are here today. I am going to pay for that later. It was a joke, it was a joke. The situation is unsustainable. We have restructured Medicaid before with our MRT program, and we are going to have to do it again this year and we will and we can. The MRT program actually made Medicaid better than ever before.
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, I did this as Attorney General. After all the millions of lives lost, big tobacco has come back to life in a different wrapper. They are now in vaping products. We know well the danger of nicotine addiction and we don't yet know the dangers of vaping, but young Americans are dying to 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 pass a clear, strict law restricting the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, restricting advertisements, and banning dangerous chemicals or products. Let's do it the first thing this session, let's sign it and let's make it a reality.
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. Thank God.
And now let's ban all variations of the deadly Fentanyl and synthetic drugs, and let's expand critical access to medication and 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 that every New Yorker is counted, and I will propose additional funds in the budget to make sure our 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 our history and they, in one swoop, raised our taxes to send money to their politically favored states. Our Federal representatives must deliver for us just as we deliver for our constituents. The US Senate must overturn SALT and they must do it this year.
To accomplish all of this people must trust our government, especially in these cynical times. Hyper-partisanship overcomes reason. The negativity that is out there sows doubt and suspicion. Let Albany rise above. Let Albany set a simple, new, inarguable national standard. Let's be bold.
Every state commissioner, the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the Attorney General, the Comptroller, every Assembly Member, every Senator, any elected official in the State of New York who earns over $100,000 a year should set a new level of disclosure and transparency by making New York State taxes available to be seen by the public - because we have nothing to hide. Let New Yorkers know, let New Yorkers know who is paying their officials, and who their officials and representatives actually work for, because you cannot 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 let's show them ours. Let's make history and redefine the symbolism of President Lincoln calling for the men from Albany to come down to Washington and let that be a call for representatives of the most transparent government in the country. Albany can lead the way - and the New York State "Nothing to Hide" law will do just that. Let's do it.
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 with, there's prescription drug reform, medical transparency, passing the ERA, more job training, veterans assistance, sexual offender laws, special prosecutor law, e-bikes law, voter registration and election reform, wage theft - the list goes on and on. But I am confident that we can do all of this. I know we can do it because we have done it before. Our state government has accomplished the impossible - over and over again. I've been at the same podium in this same room with these same people, and we laid out an agenda, and the naysayers and the experts and the pundits and the reporters said they'll never get it done - and we got it done over and over and over again.
So yes, this is robust. Yes, it's aggressive. But we're going to make it happen. And think about what we are already doing together. And what we are already accomplishing. Passing the minimum wage benefitted 1.5 million New Yorkers. Best paid family leave in the program benefitted 168,000 people just in the first year. Free college tuition benefitted 230,000 students. Raise the age helped 2,000 teens in its first year. Lowest middle-class taxes for 4.5 million middle-class new Yorkers. To pass a permeant property tax cap. Nine budgets on time, not done in 40 years. Don't blow the streak this year. Our Vital Brooklyn initiative, 4,000 new units in Brooklyn, 32 healthcare centers, 400 acres of new green and recreation space. Record education funding. We protected women's reproductive rights.
Thirty-six months of job growth. Long Island's nation-leading biomedical research corridor. Cold Spring, Brookhaven, Stony Brook, all working together. New jobs at Norsk Titanium. New jobs at Apenets. At Cree Semiconductor, 600 jobs with a paycheck expansion. We have the nation-leading drone corridor in the Mohawk Valley. Regeneron, 1,500 jobs, largest biopharma project ever in the State of New York. The Northland Workforce Development Center in Buffalo, Manufacturing Works, will retrain thousands of Buffalo's inner-city youth, for jobs. Largest expansion of upstate tourism, a new expo center at the state fair, new stadiums to keep the Mets in Syracuse, new Utica Nexus Center, historic modernization of the ORDA facilities. We built the longest multi-use trail in the nation. We renovated Hotel Saranac, which is the premier destination in the North Country. LEGOLAND coming to the Hudson Valley, 1,300 jobs. I love LEGOLAND. Yes kids, that is your next vacation, we're going to LEGOLAND.
Get ready. Nation-leading renewable energy program, largest artificial reef expansion in history, we started the Albany skyway, we rebuilt Jones Beach for the first time since it was built, we have the nation's largest offshore wind project, we're rebuilding Roberto Clemente State Park, largest land acquisition in the Adirondacks in 100 years, new state park in Brooklyn, largest state park in New York City, the Shirley Chisholm park, 400 acres. The Kosciusko Bridge, called Kosciusko Bridge, I know. First new bridge in 50 years, South Bronx transformation at the Sheridan Expressway in Hunt's Point. New Woodbury transit hub. Cashless tolling, all the New York City bridges and tunnels. And we're doing the entire throughway.
New Islanders arena, new Islanders arena at Belmont. New Binghamton University nursing school, new Utica hospital, Rochester Buffalo Niagara Falls train station. The new Long Island double track, Long Island third track. We rehabilitated the L train, they never even had to close the tunnel. We're rebuilding the Jacob Javits Center, expanding it by 50 percent. A new Moynihan Trail Hall that is going to be stunning and knock your socks off. A new Syracuse airport, new Plattsburgh airport, new Elmira-Corning airport, new Rochester airport, new Ithaca airport, new Albany airport, new Stewart International airport, new JFK airport, new LaGuardia Airport. And New York stands with Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. And if that wasn't enough, we have New York State emergency responders managed more than 12,000 incidents, and I helped this guy get out of his truck yesterday. So, our undeniable accomplishments — that was a mouthful.
Our undeniable accomplishments. They define our success, they build confidence in the people, they see progress being made, they believe this is a positive path. They don't follow the negative path. That's what we have done. And that's what are doing. And that's what we have to do more of.
And we've shown people this hope in their lives: you don't have to despair, you don't have to blame, you don't have to scape goat. Don't get angry. Don't get scared. It's going to be okay. We can handle these problems, and it can be better, and working together is the way to do it. We'll do this. We'll do this agenda, it will be hard — it's always hard. But we will get it done.
But there's one thing that keeps me up at night, so let me end where I began. Our ship of state can handle the problems and 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 inspiring us to come together and resolve them. The negativity that scapegoats and demonizes and makes our diversity a weakness rather than a strength.
We see the results, it's the rise in the KKK, the attacks on the LGBTQ community, the attacks on the Muslim community, we see it in Syracuse University, we see it in the housing discrimination on Long Island, we see it in the attacks on our Jewish brothers and sisters. This growing fear and division is an American caner that is spreading through this country's body politic. Racism and discrimination are not new, they are a virus that exists in society and sometimes the virus is dormant, but a virus that manifests itself when society's immune system is under attack and stressed, and then it turns one cell against the other. It is this country consuming itself from within. And if we do not confront it, and if we do not defeat it, it will defeat us — there is no nation on this globe that can beat this nation, but this nation can defeat itself.
New York must be the antidote. Hate and discrimination have no place in New York — it is ignorant, it is intolerant, and it is illegal. We've had a disturbing number of discrimination attacks, but the greatest increase has been in the number of anti-Semitic attacks. Government's first responsibility — protect the 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 growing threat. Let's acknowledge displays of hate-filled mass violence for what they are: they are domestic terrorism. That's what they are.
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 this state and nation — New York will not stand by when our people are being victimized and killed by hate. Thank you.
I will also propose additional resources for the New York State Police to increase the capacity of the Hate Crimes Task Force. We need that. I will also propose additional funding for security grants to our schools and our places of worship — so they can defend themselves.
I will also propose additional funding for security grants to our schools and places of worship. But we must confront the growing ignorance and intolerance, and we must do it on all levels of society because this is a multifaceted problem. Before we pass the education budget, let's make sure our schools are teaching our children, who are frighteningly involved in many of these incidents, let's teach them 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 were fleeing here for religious freedom and they were among the first immigrants to this new land.
That besides Native Americans, we are all immigrants to this land. So do not get judgmental and point fingers, and don't say you are better than me because we are all immigrants. We may have come in different ships and we may have come in chains, but we are all in the same boat now as Martin Luther King said.
Let's teach our children the basis of different religions and races and what it truly means to be an American; teach them the beauty and strength of our diversity; teach them that George Washington visited a synagogue and worshipped with the congregation and after that he wrote, "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."
Our young people need to learn that. We need our faith-based leaders to help us and to provide leadership in this troubled time, and to preach to their congregations that these acts are anti-moral and anti-religious and anti-American. How Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity all teach one premise: that the strongest four-letter word is not hate, its love.
And let's do it now, before it's too late. We have our faith leaders here today working with us. I thank them for their help, and ask them to stand and be recognized, and God bless you for what you do. Faith leaders stand up. We must also increase our cultural understanding.
We must also increase our cultural understanding. I am directing Battery Park City to develop a plan to expand our magnificent Jewish Museum on the Holocaust, which is located in Battery Park City. We want to expand the Holocaust Museum so it can host school children all across the state. Let's make a visit to the museum part of a rounded education because to know the history of the Jewish people, is to know the history of love and connection, because New York would not be New York without the Jewish community, period.
I truly believe that New York can stem this ugly tide and calm the sea of division. This violence did not start in New York. We saw it in synagogue massacres, and we saw it in California. We didn't start it, but let us end it here and now. That should be our mission. 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 in the first place. Listen and learn to the American Pledge of Allegiance, the lesson they obviously missed in grade school. It says, "One nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all." Justice for all. Not justice for some, not justice for the wealthy, not justice for the well-off, not justice for the well-bred. Justice for all. That's what it says.
That pledge says indivisible. Indivisible is the word. Indivisible, to not be divided, to not be segregated, to not be separated. United. It is that simple and it is that profound. Our founding fathers said it clearly, that the idea of unity was the key to America's future. In 1782, on the first seal of the United States of America, 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 term 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 time the simple truth, that without unity we are nothing.
And hear me today, loud and clear. There is no place for hate in our state. Period. What happened in Monsey is intolerable, and we will not allow it to happen in this state. We have no tolerance for racism or discrimination or for ugly stereotyping by newspapers, for hate mongers, for homophobes, for anti-Semites, for bigots. When someone attacks one of us, they attack each of us and all of us. When they attack Muslims, they attack me, and they attack you. When they attack the LGBTQ community, they attack me, and they attack you. When they attack Latinos, they attack me, and they attack you. When they attack Asian Americans, they attack me, and they attack you. When they attack African Americans, they're attacking me, and they're attacking you. When they're attacking Italian Americans, they're attacking me, and they're attacking you. When they're attacking Puerto Ricans, they're attacking me, and they're attacking you. And when they attack Orthodox Jewish people on the seventh night of Hanukkah, in Monsey, in Rockland, in the home of Rabbi Rottenberg, they attack me and they attack 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 that is the New York way! Excelsior! Thank you, and God bless you!