Gov. Cuomo on Wednesday called for continued reform of education, taxes and government ethics in his annual State of the State address in Albany.
Reviewing the last year, Cuomo pointed to things like an increased minimum wage, property tax caps, health insurance for 265,000 people and the formation of a Moreland Commission to root out public corruption at the state level.
“We wanted a fairer New York,” he said. “We did what we said we would do. But we have much more to do.”
Cuomo said the $10 billion deficit he inherited is slated to become a $2 billion surplus, which he said will enable tax relief.
The reforms also would include reducing New York’s estate tax, cuts to business and corporate taxes and reform of regulations that he said would make New York more attractive for businesses and manufacturers.
Following on a theme he struck Tuesday in an appearance with Vice President Joe Biden, Cuomo pledged to dedicate nearly $17 billion to protect the state from the effects of major storms. “When we built our subways, we didn’t envision floods filling the system,” he said.
He wants the state to install what he said would be most sophisticated weather forecasting equipment of any state. “We have not been getting the correct information early enough,” he said.
He also wants to start a college that specializes in homeland security and terrorism issues. There were a few boos mixed in when he announced that former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has agreed to help with the state’s homeland security as a consultant.
“He has phenomenal experience,” he said.
Going back to the economy, Cuomo cited a 40 percent unemployment rate for inner city teens and young adults in calling for an extension of the New York Youth Works program, as well as job training initiatives.
“Let’s get young people working,” he said. “Let’s give them a future.”
Cuomo said more funding must be dedicated to similar programs for those getting out of prison. “Less crime means safer streets, and fewer tax dollars spent on incarceration,” he said.
Cuomo confirmed that he wants to establish a trial program of 20 hospitals to prescribe medicinal marijuana for those such as cancer patients, a program he said would be subject to strict observation and review.
The governor proposed stricter penalties for drunk driving, calling for a five-year license suspension for anyone convicted of two offenses within two years, and permanent revocation for a third-time offender. He also wants tougher penalties for young drivers who text while driving.
“For a young driver, a cell phone is more dangerous than a bottle of alcohol,” he said, asking legislators for a mandatory one-year license suspension upon conviction.
With legislators present, Cuomo was unapologetic for the Moreland Commission.
“We have a disagreement over the need for more ethic reform — I understand that,” Cuomo said. “... But there has been a string of bad acts. On almost a daily basis there are more and more stories of individual legislators who have done bad acts. And it reflects poorly on all of us, because people don’t see them as just an Assemblyman or a Senator or a Democrat or a Republican — they see them as just another state politician. And it is a problem for all of us.”
He asked again for stronger bribery laws, public campaign financing and full disclosure of clients in legislators’ private business dealings who have business before the state.