Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Senate Democratic Deputy Leader Jeff Klein announced a unified Democratic State Senate in order to protect against Washington's attack on New York and continue New York's bold, progressive path forward.
AUDIO of the announcement is available here.
PHOTOS of the announcement will be available on Governor Cuomo's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of remarks is available below:
Governor Cuomo: Good afternoon to everyone. It's my pleasure to invite the Senate leadership here today and we have a number of members from the State Senate. First obviously to my right is the Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. To my left, Senator Jeff Klein. We also have with us, Senator John Brooks, Senator Michael Gianaris, Senator Jesse Hamilton, Senator Todd Kaminsky,Senator Brian Kavanagh, Senator Kevin Parker,Senator José Peralta,Senator Gustavo Rivera,Senator Diane Savino,Senator Toby Ann Stavisky- if I didn't call your name, it's not my fault. It's a typographical issue.
Today is a very exciting day and it is a very important day and it comes at an important time. The State of New York, I don't think it's over dramatic to say it is under attack. It is under attack by the Trump Administration, working with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell which are trying to bring an extreme conservative ideology to this country and to this state. Very simply, they are repugnant to all the values that we represent and that we hold dear. And they have specifically targeted New York and New York's economy. They're against everything that we have fought for and everything that we have achieved. We are pro immigrant. We are pro women. We believe in the women's right to choose. We believe in Roe V. Wade. We are pro LGBTQ. We are pro-environment. We are pro-union, pro-public school, pro-gun safety, and their agenda is diametrically opposed to everything we fight for. They've also specifically assaulted the New York State economy. That federal tax bill that they passed literally launched an economic missile at the State of New York. It was a tax cut for 38 states but 12 states, which happen to be all Democratic states, had a special provision where it ended the deductibility of state income taxes and property taxes. That means in this state, your income taxes are no longer deductible, your property taxes are no longer deductible. People don't feel it this year because they were smart politically and they didn't have it go into effect next year. But next year when you open your envelope, your eyeballs are going to pop because you're going to see that your property taxes are no longer deductible which means on average they'll go up about 30 percent. Your state income taxes aren't deductible, which means on average they'll go up 30 percent. Places like Long Island, Westchester will be devastated by this. Upstate New York that pays the highest property taxes in the nation as a percentage of home value, are going to be devastated. And these are hardworking, middle class New Yorkers. So there's nothing more important than defending New York values and the well-being of our state.
We have two goals. Number one, elect a Democratic Congress so we can stop the Washington agenda and stop the Washington agenda from further damaging our state. And secondly, to elect a Democratic Senate so we can protect ourselves with our own state laws here in New York. Now in many elections, Democrats divide and they splinter their efforts and divide resources, time and energy. Many times there are factions within different legislative bodies, and we've had factions within the Democratic Senate. And it's not uncommon to have it in intramural debates. You have it in Washington and every conference where you have different ideological perspectives. But what we're seeing here today is we have a common enemy, and the common enemy is defeating Trump and Ryan and McConnell and defeating their agenda, and taking over the New York State Senate so we can protect this state the way it needs to be protected. And advance the progressive values that unite all of us. So, we call for Democratic unity for the greater good. Senator Jeff Klein who headed the IDC, the Independent Democratic Conference, will fold into the main Senate body in a unified Democratic Senate effort. Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins will become the leader of that conference. That will actually make history in the State of New York. She will be the first female, African American leader of that conference and that is very exciting. Jeff Klein will become a Deputy to Andrea Stewart-Cousins. All the Senators will support each other so there isn't a divided effort and they'll support each other all through the election cycle.
The first order of business for this unified Senate is to win two special elections that are coming up April 24. One in Westchester and one in New York City. They are key elections because we can pick up two Democratic seats in those special elections and that is very important. We are also all committed to the progressive agenda that a State Senate can pass, which the State Assembly is willing to pass. We finished the Budget. We did a lot of good things in the Budget, but there are also things that we didn't pass that we need to pass. Child Victims Act, more gun safety, bail reform, the Dream Act, banning outside income, campaign finance reform, early voting - these are all progressive principles that were not passed in the budget and which we will not pass until we have a Democratic Senate. So, today what unites us is more important than what divides us. I want to thank all the individual members for putting their personal interests aside for the greater good, and putting their personal interests aside to unify as Democrats and work towards commonality. Our work is not done today. We have the special elections I mentioned on April 24th. We also have a Democratic Senator who is still a question mark, let's say. And we would have to convince him to come back to the Democratic Conference. But in truth, our work is not going to be fully done until November. Because we need to elect more Democrats to the State Senate so we have a functioning majority. And where we're not reliant upon certain Senators who may go, vote one way or the other. And winning several more seats in November is what today is really all about. It's not going to be easy. The Democrats have only controlled the Senate twice since World War II. 1965 and 2009. Both for very brief periods of time. So this will not be an easy undertaking. But we're going to coordinate the entire campaign. We're going to coordinate the Congressional Campaign with the Assembly Campaigns with the Senatorial, US Senatorial Campaign, with my Gubernatorial Campaign, with the Senate efforts, all one because we all have the same message and we all have the same goal. And we believe with that united effort we are going to have success in November.
In truth, with what's going on in Washington, failure is not an option here. We can't take another two years like the past two years. This is eroding the progressive soul of New York. As well as eroding and attacking the economic base of New York. So that's what today is all about. I again want to thank all the individual Senators. It's not easy to put your own personal interests aside for the greater good. It's sound reasoning, but when it comes down to you and your interests it is hard. But that's what the Senate body has done and they should all be proud of it because they're standing true to the beliefs that make them Democrats rather than the beliefs that drive them personally, and I applaud you for that. With that, let me turn it over to Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
Senator Stewart-Cousins: Thank you. Thank you so much, Governor. It really is, I think, a great day. Not only for our conference, but for the Senate, the Senate Democrats, for New York, and it has certainly been something that we have wanted to see for many, many years. To be able to look out and see my colleagues. Senate Democratic colleagues who are just Senate Democratic colleagues is a good thing. And I know that together, certainly with the Governor, we will be able to do all of the things that we know are important to really make sure that New York stays the progressive beacon that it is. Senator Klein, obviously, I want to thank him for, you know, sitting down and deciding that this, this is the better move. And again, it is not about us, it is not about individuals, it's about our collective commitment to serving the people who send us here to do their work. I think we are a house divided, we don't stand, a house united, we stand. We stand tall. We stand for the right things and we're able to move not only the state, but to send a message that we really are stronger and more productive for everyone when we work together. So, I am looking forward to this and again, Governor, I really thank you for pulling it together. And let's see how well we do. I think we'll make some real history.
Governor Cuomo: I think we will, thank you. Thank you very much Senator. Senator Klein.
Senator Klein: Thank you Governor. I had the privilege of growing up in the Bronx in a two family home with my grandparents. And I always remember my grandfather always saying, sometimes you have to take a step back before you can take two steps forward. That's what we are doing here today. I believe we are taking two very important steps forward. And I think when it all is said and done, my colleagues in the Independent Democratic Conference all believe that unity cannot wait until a special election. The place is here; the time is now. I come to this juncture knowing that we must all make sacrifices. First and foremost, I want to commend the Governor for his unyielding commitment to a successful unification and 2018 electoral victory will send a message to the entire country that in New York state we stand ready to confront any challenger that seeks to harm any New Yorker. The days ahead will be hard, there will be much to accomplish. But I believe Andrea Stewart-Cousins is a trailblazer. Someone who will make history. Someone who will lead us to become the first African American majority leader in the State Senate, a woman of course. And I think united, we can do great things. This is something that is extremely important to me, and I know it is important to not only the members of the Independent Democratic Conference, but all the members of the Democratic Conference.
I feel absolutely comfortable that Senator Stewart-Cousins recognizes the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. She and I will lead by example. These times, I believe require no less. Together, under Governor Cuomo's leadership, we're on the right path, the necessary path to demonstrate to our nation what New Yorkers are made of and the values that we all stand for. Thank you again Governor. Thank you Senator Cousins.