2018 State Budget Advances Governor’s Middle Class Recovery Act Cuts Taxes to Lowest Level in 70 Years for More Than 197,000 Taxpayers in Central New York Under Governor’s Excelsior Scholarship Program, 80% of Families in Central New York Will Be Eligible to Attend New York’s 2- and 4-Year Public Colleges Tuition-Free Budget Invests Record $25.8 Billion in Education Aid, a 4.4% Increase Over Last Year Budget Invests $70 Million to Launch Phase II of Governor Cuomo’s Successful State Fair Modernization Plan Budget Investment Drives $48.8 Million Transformation of Syracuse Hancock International Airport Video Showcasing Central New York Budget Highlights Available Here
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the Central New York highlights of the 2018 State Budget, which builds on the state’s fiscal discipline over the last six years while strengthening the middle class, reducing taxes, and making smart investments in New York's future. For the seventh consecutive year, the budget is balanced and holds spending growth below 2 percent. A video showcasing the Central New York budget highlights is available here. More information is available here.
VIDEO of the event is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h264 format) here.
AUDIO of the event is available here.
PHOTOS of the event will be available on the Governor’s Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks are available below:
Thank you. Thank you very much. It’s my pleasure to be back in Syracuse. Two orders of nosiness. I’m going to sign the state budget in just a moment at the table. But it’s also the unveiling of the new State airplane, which is behind me. It’s a big step up. I don’t know whose it is, but I’m leaving with it.
Thank you all very much for taking the time to come out and hear about the plans for the state and the plans for the state in partnership with central New York because we’re excited about it. Let me begin by praising and applauding my partner, your County Executive Joanie Mahoney. Who’s just doing an outstanding job. Let’s give her a round of applause. Senator Valesky, who made the budget a reality. This was not an easy budget to do. It was a very ambitious budget, plus the political winds that blow in Washington also blow in New York and there was a lot of politics around this one. So it was harder to birth but it was beautiful baby once we actually got it done. And Senator Valesky was a big help. Let’s give him a big round of applause.
The focus, they call it a State budget, it’s not really a budget, it’s really an overall operating pan. It’s what we think are the important things to do for the state for that coming year, and it’s region by region. And then it allocates the funding to the priorities and that’s why it’s a budget, but it’s more of an operating plan. And we started this plan with a very simple premise. We’re going to focus on the economy and generating the economy, specifically generating the economy for middle class people. Because if you look at the people who have suffered, it is the middle class. Middle class wages in this country, not just New York, basically flat for the past 20 years in terms of purchasing power. You know we talk about middle class anxiety, middle class frustration, economic frustration, frustration of working families. Yeah, it’s not hard to figure out. When you are basically flat in your earning potential for 20 years. And everything is going up around you. You get that sinking feeling. And that’s what’s happening to the middle class. Cost of homes are going up. Cost of fuel is going up. Cost of college is going up. And wages have been stagnant, so that’s the issue that we want to address this year. Not just the New York issue, it’s a national issue, but we can make a difference here in the State of New York. And that’s been the focus.
When it comes to Upstate New York, the focus is even sharper because Upstate New York has paid a higher price. It’s not just a middle class problem in Upstate New York. It’s all across the state. It’s the transition from manufacturing economy to a high tech economy. And upstate New York was basically abandoned. And it’s suffered through the transition from the manufacturing to the economy of tomorrow. The state government unfortunately was nowhere to be found.
We have changed that over the past few years, and you’re starting to see the product of the change. But you don’t do it overnight. You don’t correct 50 years of disinvestment overnight. But we’re doing more than has ever been done before. And you see the arrows are now pointed in the right direction. I’m very proud to be able to say to you that I am the governor who has invested more in Upstate New York than any governor in the history of the state of New York. And we are going to keep doing it. What did we need to do in Upstate New York? First we had to stop doing things that were counterproductive right? When you’re in a hole, what is the first thing you do? Stop digging. The State had to stop raising taxes, stop chasing people form the state. The mentality that you can keep raising taxes and taxes and taxes just doesn’t work. People are mobile, businesses are more mobile than ever before, and they will leave. And they have left. So we’ve reversed that philosophy.
Second, the economy of tomorrow, whether it’s Silicon Valley or wherever the growth areas are in this country, it’s always the same, they’re economies that are partnered with institutes of higher education. And the institutes of higher education are coming up with the new copyrights, the new patents, the new products, they then become the businesses of tomorrow. So that university partnership with businesses are what we have to foster. And that’s what our Regional Economic Development Councils are all about, working with colleges, hospitals, and universities. Third, you needed an investment partner, right? It’s just like a business. You’re going to make the transition to a new line of business, you’re working with the universities to do that, somebody has to finance that transition, somebody has to give you the capital to do that. That’s what the state government should have been doing. That’s what we are doing now. We call that our regional development council approach – the REDCs we refer to it. We’ve invested $5.3 billion, my administration, in Upstate New York. This budget approves another round of REDC funding, another $750 million. Central New York won a $500 million grant called the URI grant and this year in this year budget, we’re going to be funding $55 million for the SAAB project, we call it, the SAAB company for defense and security, and we’ll be funding $30 million for the drone testing area between Syracuse and Griffiss Airforce to help develop the drone industry, which we’re very excited about. That’s in this budget also.
We also have a very big investment in tourism. Tourism has been a big market leader for the state of New York. We’re advertising in the I Love NY commercial you probably see, I hope you see – Upstate New York primarily. Why? Because Upstate New York was a hidden secret. Nobody knows how beautiful it is. Nobody knows all the opportunities and recreation in Upstate New York. We get 50 million tourists per year to New York City that come from all over the globe to see New York City – that’s a good thing. Better thing would be, come see New York City and while you’re there take a trip Upstate New York because we have all sorts of beautiful assets and treasures in Upstate New York, and you put the two together and that’s really a great trip. You see the greatest urban environment on the globe in New York City and then come upstate, we’ll show you history and geography and the most beautiful rural area in the country – that’s what the I Love New York campaign is doing. It has been a great investment for us. We’ve invested $150 million in advertising, which is a lot of money, I know. With a $150 million in advertising, our tourism revenue has gone up $9 billion with a B. That works and we’re going to keep at it. We’re doing another $70 million investment in the I Love New York Campaign.
Here, locally, the State Fair, we’ve invested in. We spent about $50 million to redo the State Fair. With all due respect to the State Fair, it really, really needed it. I was here about seven years ago at the Fair, I visited. I had a soda, I left the soda on a corner of a wall. I came back seven years later – the cup was still on the same corner of the wall. It needed the reinvestment and we said, “We’re going to reinvest. We’re going to make it a different fair. We’re going to get people excited again.” We did that. Last year, we broke all records in terms of attendance – 1.1 million people came to the State Fair. We have put aside an additional $70 million to do a second phase of development for the State Fair, because it is a great magnet.
People come to Central New York – once you get them here and they see what you have, they will come back. That’s what we’re seeing in our tourism efforts – the trick is to get them to come the first time and using that State Fair as a magnet to bring people to Central New York. We also did a number of things on the individual level. If you want to help middle class people, best thing to do is cut their taxes. We cut the state tax income rate for the middle class to the lowest level in 70 years. People will save $700 per year. We passed the first-in-the-nation program that will provide scholarships for students, children of middle class families up to $125,000 to go to a SUNY or a community college for free – up to $125,000. Now, you can say, “Well $125,000 is a lot of money.” It is a lot of money, but if you’re trying to put one kid or two kids or three kids through college, it’s not a lot of money very quickly. And this is a great investment, I think, for the State. It's great for the individual. It’s great for the child to know that you’re going to be able to go to college and you’re going to have that dream. It’s great that middle class parents have that stress relieved from them. I can’t tell you how many parents have come up to me and said, “You know, I don’t know how I’m going to do this. I don’t know how I’m going to pay for the mortgage and do everything else I have to do and pay for college.” The kids who go through college nowadays come out with a mountain of debt that they carry for half their life. It’s not like when I went, where it was basically affordable with loans. You carried the loan but it’s not like today. Coming out on average with about $40,000 in loans that they have to carry. It’s like having the mortgage without the house. That’s how they start their life. But it’s also smart from the overall states point of view because when you’re trying to attract businesses, when you’re trying to grow economically, the question is – who has the skilled workforce? If I’m talking to a business and I’m trying to get them to come to New York and I’m doing my pitch, the first question they ask, “Do you have the educated, skilled workforce that I need?” Even manufacturing now is what they call advanced manufacturing, right?
I was at an engine building plant outside of Buffalo a few weeks ago. You know the one thing I didn’t see inside the engine building plant? There were no tools. It was all computers. So, even manufacturing is now advanced and you need educational skills and highly trained workers to work there. So, the state with the best trained workforce wins. By the way, the country with the best trained workforce wins. The state of New York used to have the most educated workforce in the country. Today we’re number 12 of states. This United States of America used to have the most educated workforce on the globe. Today, we’re number 11. Those are problems. We have to correct that. One of the ways we can do it is by just understanding the new reality. The way we believed 70 years ago that high school was necessary and we provided public high school, right? And there were voices at that time that said, “Oh you don’t need high school. That’s a luxury. It’s not a necessity.” Well, it was a necessity and the same way 70 years ago high school was a necessity. Today college is a necessity. Let’s recognize it. Let’s do it. Let’s be the first state. Let’s have the most educated workforce. Let this economy soar and you watch how the other states are going to follow New York because that’s what they do.
We have a property tax savings proposal in the plan, which the county executive spoke about, which I’m very excited about. You want to get down taxes in the state of New York, everybody looks at me like I’m the person who raises the taxes. Believe it or not, out of the average New Yorkers, the taxes paid – one out of every three dollars goes to the state, two out of every three dollars goes to property taxes. It’s the property tax in the state of New York that is crushing. And we have to get property taxes under control. We tried doing this. I passed a two percent property tax cap which made a difference. Property taxes were going up seven, eight, nine percent. Now they go up two percent. The bad news is, they still go up two percent. How do you really make a difference? Well, you have to get those costs of local government under control. And that’s not easy. We have thousands of local governments in the state of New York –10,500 local governments. So, what this plan says is, we’re going to empower the county executive. And luckily for you, you have a great one. And the county executive will call together all of the local governments in Onondaga – hundreds of local governments – and put everybody at one table, which has not happened believed it or not, and say to all the local governments, “We have to figure out how to work together and how to save money by sharing services.”
Now, every government likes to be its own fiefdom, right? Every government likes to have control of everything itself. It can’t work that way anymore. It is just too expensive. Not every government needs to have its own purchasing department, its own legal department, its own assessing department, its own fleet management department – find ways to work together. We do this on the state government side all the time. I have this argument with our agencies. Sam Roberts, a great state commissioner. Every state agency thinks they’re a country unto themselves. And they want to have their own everything – own printing presses, they’re own HR department, they’re own fleet management department, they’re own mechanics – and I said “No, guys we have to work together.” “Well I like to have my own because I like to be able to control what I need, when I need it.” Yeah I understand that. I get it. I get the concept. I have three girls. Each one wants her own car, her own room, her own credit card. I get it. It’s very nice to live life that way. Except it’s incredibly expensive and we can’t do that anymore and we’re going to have to find ways to share services among local governments and take services where you could reduce the cost to the taxpayer, the service will be the same but you can find savings among the governments and the check on the system is going to be you. Why? Because this is all going to be done in the public. County Executives are going to have meetings and they’re going to be open to the public and you’ll hear the dialogue. Local government officials can vote yes and vote no but they’re going to have to explain their vote in writing to the people of their district. And the process will conclude October 15th. I think people will engage. I think they’re very concerned about property taxes. They get it. Upstate New York has the highest property taxes in the United States of America. You bring the power of democracy to this discussion and you’ll see how local governments can actually find ways to save money and get creative, and I’m very excited about that because that can make a dramatic, dramatic difference.
And something I’m also very excited about that’s in this budget is $35 million to redo Hancock Airport. If you want to be a first class economy, you need a first class airport. An airport is no longer an airport. I’m old enough that they used to call it a terminal. Right? It was about the place where you went and you got on the plane. That’s not what an airport is anymore. It’s an economic development center. You fly into the cities around this world and you land at the airport and it’s a whole experience. It’s a shopping mall. It’s restaurants. It’s conference centers. All of the people who fly through the airport, they do their business in the airport, they leave. They never actually go into the city anymore. You fly into New York State, frankly, it’s a much different experience. Vice President Joe Biden, God bless him, no longer Vice President, had a way with candor and frankness that was alarming at times. He said if you were blindfolded and put on a plane and landed at LaGuardia Airport and they took off your blindfold, they’d think you were in a third world country. All the New York politicians blasted poor Joe Biden. I actually went the other way and I said, “You know what, he’s right?” LaGuardia is a disgrace. John F. Kennedy Airport, at one time when it was built it was great, but it needs to be redone. So we’re rebuilding JFK and we’re rebuilding LaGuardia, but by the way, we’re also going to rebuild Hancock and we’re rebuilding Rochester and Elmira-Corning and we’re rebuilding Plattsburgh because that’s how business moves now and that’s how business travels. And they land at the airport and they get out of the plane and they walk through the terminal. They have a feeling of who you are before you have said a word. It’s like walking into somebody’s home and you look around and you assess who they are.
We want them to understand who we are. That we are the place of tomorrow and the economy of tomorrow, and the airports are going to say that and Hancock is going to say that. But not only are we going to do it but we’re going to do it quickly and we’re going to do it fast. It’s not going to be another government project that drones on forever. Pardon the reference to drones, I don’t mean your kind of drones, I mean that other drone. We’re going to get it done quickly. We’ve already had meetings on it and by the end of next year, we’re going to have a fully redone airport right here in Syracuse that you can all be proud of.
A couple of other elements that are in the budget that you might be interested in. We have a $2.5 billion fund to rebuild the water infrastructure. Cities in Central New York like a lot of older cities in the state have been suffering with water pipes breaking literally and it’s not sexy but it’s important and it’s expensive. So we have $2.5 billion to help cities rebuild their water infrastructure et cetera. Also with this fund is to make sure we have clean water. We’re learning more and more about chemicals that are in the ground, that wind up in the groundwater, that wind up in wells and wind up in the water system. The more we learn, the more frightening it is. We have had some frightening learning experiences throughout the state so we want to make sure we preserve the integrity of our water. Within that fund we are going to spend $2.5 million on Owasco Lake in Auburn to make sure that water is clean.
We have a law we passed called “Raise the Age.” We were one of two states that treated 16- and 17-year olds as adults for purposes of the criminal justice system. You have a 16- or 17- year old who gets into trouble – once you get a criminal record – forget ever being able to get a good job. And if you put a 16- or a 17-year old in a state prison or in a jail with hardened criminals, it is inhumane, it is cruel, and don’t be surprised when that 16-year old comes out a changed person – not for the better, but for the worse.
So Raise the Age actually gives the judge flexibility to get a 16-year old or a 17-year old the help and assistance they need without a criminal record and if they have to be incarcerated, they would be incarcerated with other 16- and 17-year olds and not with a hardened predator. That we have done it for so long and that we are one of two states that still does it makes me ashamed to be a New Yorker. That we fixed it makes me proud, and we did that this year.
We also had something we passed called the New Immigrant Defense Fund. Immigration is a hot topic and a hot political topic. Some people are against immigration and immigrants and they believe we should accelerate deportation. I happen to believe immigration is actually a strength for this state and this nation. I think if people want to judge immigrants, they are being a little short-sighted because if they are not a Native American, then they are an immigrant. And I am an immigrant. If they want to deport immigrants, I say start with me because my people came from Italy and immigration is actually what made us who we are. We brought all of those different cultures, those different skills, all of that talent and diversity and it was a great, great strength. So I happen to be pro-immigration. But whether you’re anti or pro, that is your political opinion – God bless you. We are not a nation of political opinions. We are a nation of laws and before you deport someone we want to make sure that person had the right to legal counsel. So we will be the first state to pay for legal counsel for people who are threatened as new immigrants in New York and I am proud of that.
The bottom line – we will end where we started. We have made great progress over the past few years. You can feel it when you talk to people. You can see it in the numbers. Five years ago, the unemployment rate was just about 10 percent. Today the unemployment rate is 5.8 percent. 10,000 new jobs in Central New York. Today this state has 8 million private sector jobs – more private sector jobs in the history of the state of New York. So the arrows are pointed in the right direction. We have more projects, more investment going on now, so the future is only going to be brighter. I want to thank you all for being here today. I want to thank all local electeds for their partnership, especially the County Executive and the Senator. Thank you and God bless you.