OSWEGO, NY – Governor Andrew Cuomo visited SUNY Oswego to sign his state budget and vowed to keep the Empire State moving forward
SUNY Oswego President Deborah Stanley thanked the governor for his “passion to the State University of New York and higher education.”
“Over the last two years, Gov. Cuomo has taken bold steps to ensure that colleges and universities of the State University of New York play a key role in revitalizing our upstate economy,” she told the large crowd in the Sheldon Hall auditorium on Wednesday. “He knows that our SUNY system is one of the jewels of this state.”
Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy quipped about the governor’s powers, saying, “There is no snow in Oswego. There is snow in Syracuse and snow on the Thruway – but no snow in Oswego.”
When he was mayor of Rochester, there was a saying, “The best thing about going to Albany to lobby is getting in the car and going back home,” he said.
“It was frustrating. But, in two years, this governor has transformed the place. It’s people working together, both sides of the aisle. It’s getting things done,” he said. “People come together and it’s the way that government should work. Leadership matters. It maters a great deal because (Gov. Cuomo) has lead this change.”
“I just want to mention the professionalism that the governor has brought to Albany. It’s something that has been desperately needed … and even though I’m on a different side of the aisle from the governor and lieutenant governor, there’s a lot of things I don’t agree with them, but I have got to say they have brought professionalism and leadership to New York State government. So, thank you very much,” Assemblyman Will Barclay said. “They’re very good guys, I enjoy working with them. I like them both and that makes working in government much easier. They’re very sincere and want to move this state forward. I appreciate that type of leadership.”
Senator Dave Valesky noted that this is the third consecutive on time budget.
“Shouldn’t be a big deal. But, in New York State it’s a huge deal because you have to go back 30 years before you find in our state history the last time we had three budgets in a row time.”
The budget will provide nearly $800 million in tax relief for businesses over the next three years, he added. As well as reforms in the unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation system, which will save the private sector $1.2 billion, he said.
After signing the budget, the governor presented the guests with three hockey pucks, as a nod to SUNY Oswego’s status as a collegiate hockey powerhouse and the fact that this was his “hat trick” (a hockey term for a player scoring three goals in a game).
“You might say, ‘Big deal. You are supposed to do a budget on time.’ Getting a budget done on time is expected, in the real world. But, in Albany it was extraordinary to have a budget on time three years in a row,” Cuomo said.
This is the first time since 1984 that there have been three budgets on time in a row.
“Who was governor in 1984?” Cuomo asked the crowd. “My mother’s husband, that’s right.”
Hugh Cary’s last budget was on time. Then, Mario Cuomo delivered two more on time.
“My father had two on time budgets. I have three. Not that I’m competitive with the old man,” the younger Cuomo laughed.
“We are focusing on first things first in New York State,” the governor said.
The first priority is: “We have to stand together as one and we have to defeat Michigan this weekend,” he said referring to Syracuse University’s upcoming Final Four basketball game this weekend.
It’s not just about education any more – it’s about education driving the economy, he said describing SUNY as an economic engine.
“This legislature made a decision a three years ago; we decided let’s leave politics outside the room, leave it at the door. We’re Democrats, we’re Republicans – but we’re all New Yorkers first and let’s act that way,” Cuomo said.
“Yes, we have differences, but our commonalities are more important,” he said. “And what’s most important is that we get the job done for the people of the state of New York.”
Cuomo described the budget as “an action plan for the state” and “a blueprint about what the state government is going to be doing for the year going forward.”
There are three categories: What it means to your families, what it means for your job and the state’s economy, and what it means for education.
“For families, the one thing we wanted to do is give them a break. The last thing we wanted to do was put any more pressure on New York families,” he added. “Middle class families will pay the lowest tax rate in 60 years; not since Jackie Robinson played for the Brooklyn Dodgers have taxes been this low in the state of New York.”
The best thing we can do is send a signal to businesses that says New York is open for business, we want you to come here, we want you to grow here, we want you to stay here, he said.
They are changing the perception that this is the tax capital of the nation, he added.
“We want to send a different signal. We want to say, ‘We got it, taxes are going down not up!’ We want you to stay with us,” he said.
The governor touted the REDC program (Regional Economic Development Councils) that he started two years ago.
Every region in the state is now organized; the business, political, education and other leaders all come together to design an economic strategy for that region, Cuomo explained.
“The old way was the state told you how to build the economy in your region. It didn’t work. Because, in truth, there is no one New York State economy. There is no one size fits all,” he said. “You come up with your region’s plan and then we invest in that region’s vision.”
New York has been the birthplace of many good ideas, that leave the state to become businesses, the governor noted.
Innovation hot spots, partnerships between universities and a business incubator will be formed that when an idea is birthed in the university it can be put it in a business incubator, which provides support services for the new business, he explained. The incubator will be a tax-free zone.
“So that business knows that the best place to be in the country is right here in the state of New York,” Cuomo said. “No state could possibly do anything more for (the business).”
The only catch is that the business must agree to stay in New York “and this state grows along with that business,” he added.
Tourism is a great economic opportunity for the state, the governor pointed out.
“We haven’t really told the story of the beauty and the assets we have in Upstate New York. We tell that story – people will come,” he said.
For the year, someone currently making minimum wage would earn $14,600, the governor said, adding “You can’t live of $14,600 a year. You can’t do it, the numbers don’t add up.”
His budget raises the minimum wage to $9 an hour “because it is the right thing to do. It is the fair thing to do and it was long over due,” he said.
The third piece of the budget involves education, he said.
“It starts with primary education. We will fund our schools in this state at the highest level in history. This budget increases aid to schools by $1 billion,” he said.
Education just can’t be about funding, he continued.
“We spend more money on our schools than any state in the nation. Number one in the nation on spending; and we’re at the bottom of the list for results,” he said. “So it’s not just about the money. It’s not how much money you spend. It’s what you get accomplished.”
That is why he implemented a teach evaluation process that starts this year. They want to find out what works, what doesn’t work, what teachers are doing well (model that behavior), find out where teachers need help and get those teachers the help that they need.
The governor would also like to see longer school days or longer school years to enable American students to better compete globally.
“Other countries do better at educating their children. Why? Because they educate their children more. Their children spend more time in the classroom then our children,” he explained
It will be up to the individual districts to decide what to do. But, any additional cost for more education, either a longer day or a longer year, the state of New York will pay 100 percent of the cost, the governor said.
When the state budgets were late it was symbol of the dysfunctional government in Albany, Cuomo said. And, it became “a show” on the nightly news – for weeks, he added.
“When the government fails, we all fail,” he said. “Upstate has paid a price. And a big part of it is we had a state government that wasn’t working with the people of this state, wasn’t working with the local governments … the dysfunction cost us a lot of lost time and missed opportunities.”
“We have started to change that. And, we’re going to continue. This state has every asset imaginable. There is nothing that any (other) state has that we don’t have in New York!” he continued. “We have the best geography, we have the best health care system, the best schools, the best workers – the best people in the country! But we haven’t had a government that we’ve been working with. That’s what this all comes down to – making this state a better state. We want to make sure we leave this place a better place for our children. We want to say we gave them a home, and their home is the state of New York and it is going to stay the state of New York. That, my friends, is an issue we are not going to give up on. You have my word on it.”