Thursday, January 12, 2017

NY Gov. Cuomo's 2017 State of the State Proposals

New York Gov. Cuomo began his six-stop tour in New York City on Monday, January 9th and concluded it in Albany on Wednesday, January 11th. He tailored each of his six speeches and presentations to the particular Region, and, in total, his Administration announced 35 proposals, each with several sub-planks. For example, there are 10 points to the 35th proposal, which is restoring trust in Government through sweeping Ethics reform. The Governor has a 300-page policy book that he is delivering to the Legislature and making public.

Some of the proposals are Region or City specific, many are for the entire State. Various elements will need approval from or compromise with the Legislature. Cuomo starts the year feuding with Legislative Leaders, especially Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, and Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Westchester Democrat.

After outlining his policy agenda for 2017, Cuomo must release his Executive Budget proposal for the 2017-2018 Fiscal year, then negotiate with Legislative Leaders, particularly Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat. Senate Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) Leader Jeff Klein, of the Bronx, will also be heavily involved in negotiations, the IDC is again forming a coalition with Senate Republicans. A new State budget is due by April 1st.

A cheat-sheet to Cuomo's State of the State proposals:

1. Tuition-Free Public College for Middle-Class Students
- Ultimately tuition will be free for families/individuals earning less than $125,000 per year.
- This program will be phased in over three years, it’ll be for people and families earning less than $100,000 in Fall 2017, going to $110,000 in 2018, and $125,000 in 2019.
- It will kick-in after student loans and grants, and close the gap to pay tuition.
- The program, the Excelsior Scholarship, was unveiled by Cuomo with Senator Bernie Sanders.

2. Transforming Kennedy Airport
- It would involve improving roadways around the Airport to reduce congestion.
- He would also either, 1. Increase the capacity of the AirTrain, or 2. Have a 1-seat ride from Manhattan to JFK.
- Cuomo also wants to connect all the terminals at JFK.

3. Expanded Child Care Tax Credit
- Child care tax benefits would increase for those making at least $50,000 a year but less than $150,000 a year.
- Those earning between $60,000 a year and $150,000 a year will see their benefits more than double under this plan.
- Over 200,000 taxpayers affected.

4. Protecting New Yorkers from Cyber Attacks
- Cuomo proposes strengthening cybercrime and Identity Theft laws.
- Cuomo wants to establish a Cyber Incident Response Team within the Office of Counter Terrorism. This team will serve as a go-to resource for non-Executive agencies, local governments, and public authorities in how to better protect their information technology assets, critical operating systems and data from cyber-attacks, malware and ransomware.

5. Protecting Seniors from Financial Exploitation and Foreclosure
- Establish an Elder Abuse Certification Program for banks located in New York State, amending the banking law to empower banks to place holds on potentially fraudulent transactions, and strengthening legislation that will protect senior homeowners with reverse mortgages.
- Several measures to further protect seniors from financial exploitation.

6. Banning Bad Actors from the Financial Services Industry for Egregious Conduct
- This proposal would empower the State Superintendent of Financial Services to ban certain bad actors from the banking and insurance industries for misconduct like that seen in the Wells Fargo scandal.

7. Further Strengthen New York’s Efforts to Crack Down on Wage Theft
- Amend State Law to hold the top 10 members of Out-of-State Limited Liability Companies (LLC) personally financially liable for unsatisfied Judgments for unpaid wages.
- Current Laws apply to In-State LLCs but not Out-of-State LLCs.
- Further, the Governor will advance Legislation to empower the Labor Commissioner to directly enforce all wage liabilities on behalf of workers with unpaid wage claims. Combined, these measures will get more money back into the hands of the hardworking New Yorkers who earned it.

8. Install Over 500 New Charging Stations to Promote Electric Vehicle Use
- 500 new workplace charging stations.
- 69 charging stations along the New York State Thruway.
- Encourage electric motor vehicle use and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

9. Modernizing Voting in New York to Increase Participation in the Democratic System
- Allow Early Voting, and adopt both Automatic Voter Registration and Same Day Voter Registration.

Early Voting
This proposal would require every County to offer residents access to at least one Early Voting Poll site during the 12 days leading up to Election Day. Voters will have at least eight hours on weekdays and five hours on weekends to cast Early Ballots. Counties must have one Early Voting Poll site for every 50,000 Residents and the Bipartisan County Boards of Elections will determine the specific location of Early Voting Polling places, subject to standards of accessibility and convenience. Research shows that work, school, and personal commitments are some of the main reasons voters choose not to participate in Elections in the United States. Additionally, Early Voting leads to shorter lines on Election Day, Early Detection and Correction of Registration errors, and greater access to Voting. Currently, New York is one of only thirteen States where Early Voting is not available and an excuse is required to request an Absentee ballot. New Yorkers can vote via Absentee ballot only if the Voter meets certain qualifications such as being absent from his or her County on Election Day or being unable to get to the Polls due to a Disability. Thirty-seven States and the District of Columbia already allow Voters to cast ballots in person before Election Day. In 2016, the number of these voters who had cast their Early Ballots by the week before Election Day nearly doubled compared to the 2012 Elections.

Automatic Voter Registration
To modernize the Voter Registration process, the Governor will propose adopting a system implementing Automatic Voter Registration. The new system will streamline DMV services by Automatically sending Voters’ information used in a DMV application directly to the County Board of Elections. New Yorkers who do not wish to Register to Vote can simply check an "opt out" box.
Citizens can already Register to vote at the DMV, but often face unnecessary, onerous regulations requiring a potential Voter to include additional Voting information in their application for a DMV service. Paper applications can introduce errors to voter rolls, and inaccurate Registrations can lead to Voters encountering difficulties at the Polls. Automatic Voter Registration can lead to improved accuracy of Voter Registration lists, reduced costs, and a more convenient and efficient process for Voters and Election officials.

Same-Day Voter Registration
New York does not currently allow Voters to Register on Election Day. This proposal would allow New Yorkers to Register and Vote on the Same Day so that onerous and counter-intuitive Registration deadlines do not prevent New Yorkers from having the opportunity to participate in the Electoral process. Thirteen other States and the District of Columbia allow Same-Day Registration, which has greatly increased the accessibility of the Democratic process to everyday Citizens.

10. Close Indian Point Power Plant by 2021
- Unit 2 Reactor to close April 2020 and Unit 3 Reactor April 2021.
- End use of a plant with numerous safety violations.
- Current Indian Point Employees will be offered relocation and opportunities with other plants and utilities within the State; training in renewable technologies.
- Entergy will provide $15 million in funding for environmental and community benefits.
- Cuomo is working on replacement resources so that there can be no cost increases in electricity after Indian Point closes.

11. Invest $650 Million to Fuel the Growth of a World-Class Life Sciences Cluster in New York
- $250 million for tax incentives for Life Science companies.
- $200 million for State capital grants to support investment in wet-lab and innovation space.
- $100 million for Investment capital for early stage life science initiatives.
- At least $100 million for Operating support from Private Sector partnerships.

12. Launch the “New York Promise” Agenda to Advance Social Justice and Affirm New York’s Progressive Values
- Reforms of the Criminal Justice System including overhauling New York’s antiquated Bail system, ensuring access to a speedy trial, raising the age of criminal responsibility, improving witness identification procedures, recording police interrogations for serious offenses, and extending the Hurrell-Harring settlement reforms Statewide.
- Signed two Executive orders to make it more likely for people to get equal pay for equal work.
- Help Immigrants by implementing the Empire State Immigrant Defense Project; expanding the Naturalization services offered at the State’s Office of New Americans; pressing for passage of the DREAM Act; and convening the New York State Blue Ribbon Panel on Immigrants to make recommendations that support the integration and success of immigrants and their families.
- Establish a Statewide Hate Crimes Task Force.
- Form an Interfaith Advisory Council led by Cardinal Dolan to help achieve a greater understanding and tolerance of all religions and cultures, promote open-mindedness, and inclusivity, and bolster the State’s efforts to protect all New Yorkers.

13. Expand After-School Education to Children in High-Need Areas Across the State
- $35 million pilot program.
- Create 22,000 new after-school slots in high-need areas across the State.

14. Lower Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Cap by 30% Between 2020 and 2030
- Cuomo has called upon RGGI States to join New York in an effort to continue to lead the fight against climate change and drive the Nation’s transition toward a clean energy economy.” RGGI = Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
- Lowers greenhouse gas emissions in New York and other States.
- By reviewing the RGGI program and adjusting the cap to reflect the progress made in just a few short years, New York and neighboring States will continue to reduce emissions annually after 2020 and ensure that power sector emission reductions continue through 2030.

15. Regional Investments to Move New York City Forward
- Investments in New York City’s Outer Boroughs.
- $50 million investment in the Montefiore Health System.
- Transform health and wellness in Brooklyn through measures such as affordable housing with features such as exercise rooms, rooftop gardens, and health clinics, the expansion of New York’s Land Bank Program, and the establishment of Brooklyn as a Primary location for the FreshConnect Mobile Markets and FreshConnect Checks program expansion to increase access to healthy foods in the area.
- Permanent toll reductions at the Verrazano Narrows Bridge for Staten Island residents.
- $10 million for upgrading the Orchard Beach Pavilion in Pelham Bay Park.
- $108 million for the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx.
- Incorporate the Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities into CUNY.

16. $500 Million Buffalo Billion Phase II "Buffalo Billion Squared"
- Expansion of the Buffalo Billion Initiative to continue building on the renewed economic engines and reinvigorated civic spirit throughout Buffalo and the entire Western New York region.
- Implement revitalization and smart growth efforts; improve workforce development and job training; grow advanced manufacturing, tourism and life sciences; and connect communities and economic progress through rail expansion.
- Develop a new commuter rail and multi-modal station in downtown Buffalo and completing Buffalo’s light rail extension to University at Buffalo’s North Campus will provide 20,000+ students access to downtown Buffalo and the waterfront, as well as connect urban job seekers with suburban employment centers, helping Buffalo to deliver economic inclusion for all the region’s workers.
- A Buffalo Blueway, which would create a network of expanded public access points to waterways and historic, cultural and natural assets to spur revitalization and tourism in the Buffalo/Niagara Region.
- Investment at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
- Doubles down on program with widespread alleged corruption involving Cuomo Aides, Associates, and Donors.

17. Invest $2 Billion in Clean Water Infrastructure and Water Quality Protection
- Investment in drinking water infrastructure, wastewater infrastructure and source water protection.
- Funding for projects will prioritize regional and watershed level solutions, and incentivize consolidation and sharing of water and wastewater services.
- Drinking water and wastewater infrastructure upgraded.
- Advanced treatment installed for both drinking water and wastewater, and advanced filtration systems installed for drinking water.
- Green infrastructure and open spaces built for source water protection.
- Ensuring proper management and storage of common contaminants like manure and road salt to prevent runoff; and increasing the State Superfund to expedite the cleanup of hazardous waste that may impact sources of drinking water.
- Follows ongoing water quality crisis in Hoosick Falls and questions about water quality in other places in New York.

18. Enable Access to Ride-Hailing Apps Throughout New York
- Ride-Hailing Apps are Legal and Regulated in New York City but not in the rest of the State.
- Legalize and regulate throughout the State.
- Create regulatory framework including zero-tolerance policy with drugs and alcohol, DMV licensing, and regulating of ride-sharing companies, consumer protections for users, and more.

19. New $10 Million Photonics Venture Challenge in Rochester
- This business competition will aim to support start-up companies that commercialize these rapidly developing technologies through a business accelerator program and a top award of $1 million to the most promising start-up company.
- Modeled after Western New York’s 43North, a $5 million start-up competition funded by Governor Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion initiative where cash prizes are awarded to some of the best entrepreneurs and start-ups from around the world.

20. Complete the Empire State Trail by 2020
- The State will develop 350 miles of new trail in three phases to create a 750-mile pathway for hiking and biking along scenic vistas and through charming, historic communities.
- The Empire State Trail will span much of the State, from the New York Harbor up through the Adirondack Mountains to the Canadian border, and from the shores of Lake Erie along the historic Erie Canal to the heart of the Capital Region.
- Gaps closed in the Erie Canalway and the Hudson River Valley Greenway, as well as connect the two trails.
- When complete, the largest State multi-use trail in the Nation.

21. Build the Town of Woodbury Transit and Economic Development Hub
- Expand the Route 32 corridor, replace the Route 32 bridge over Route 17, reconfigure the ramp leading to the New York State Thruway, and add a solar-powered bus station and a commuter parking lot and an interconnected traffic system to improve access and allow for increased commercial activity, Orange County.

22. Extend the Empire State Excellence in Teaching Awards
- Honor 60 additional teachers.
- Winners will receive an honor from the Governor, the opportunity to advise education policy makers, and a stipend of $5,000.
- The funds can be used for continued learning and professional endeavors.

23. Empower Voters to Reduce Property Taxes and Costs of Local Government
- This plan requires County officials to develop localized plans that find real, recurring Property Tax savings.
- Cost-saving plans would be up for Voter Referendum in the November 2017 Elections.
- If the plan is not approved by a majority of voters, the County Government must prepare a new plan for approval in November 2018.

24. $160 Million to Transform Long Island
- $80 million for improvements at 16 LIRR Stations.
- $40 million will support economic growth, environmental sustainability, and water quality in Business Districts in Smithtown and Kings Park.

25. Nation's Largest Offshore Wind Energy Project Off Long Island Coast and Unprecedented Commitment to Develop up to 2.4 Gigawatts of Offshore Wind Power by 2030
- Long Island Power Authority to approve of a wind project 30 miles southeast of Montauk, for 90 megawatts of power.
- An unprecedented commitment to develop up to 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, enough power generation for 1.25 million homes and the largest commitment in U.S. history.
- Calls on State Agencies to ensure a 79,000 acre lease area capable of siting approximately 800 megawatts of offshore wind off of the Rockaway Peninsula is developed cost-effectively and responsibly to customers.
- Help New York reach its goal of 50% of energy needs met by renewable sources by 2030.
- The Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to undertake a comprehensive study to determine the most rapid, cost-effective, and responsible pathway to reach 100% Renewable Energy Statewide.

26. Actions to Combat the Heroin and Opioid Epidemic in New York
- Eliminate insurance prior authorization for inpatient treatment to include outpatient treatment.
- Ten 24/7 urgent access centers with crisis intervention on-call services, one in each Region of the State.
- Require Emergency Department to consult the Prescription Monitoring Program Registry to combat Doctor Shopping.
- Legislation to create New York’s first Recovery High Schools in Regions of the State hit especially by the disease of addiction.

27. "Buy American" Plan will Implement the Nation's Strongest State Procurement Laws Mandating the Preference of American Products
- All State entities will be required to give preference to American-made goods and products in any new procurement's more than $100,000.
- Other States have “Buy American Incentives” and New York is missing out on the opportunity to incentivize people to Buy American.
- To qualify as “American-Made” under Governor Cuomo’s proposal, end manufacturing processes should take place in the United States and more than 60% of the components of the manufactured good should be of domestic origin.” There are a few exceptions to this requirement, though.

28. Saab to Establish North American Headquarters for Defense and Security Division in New York State
- Saab is in Military Defense and Civil Security, and will invest $55 million to relocate to New York State.
- Saab plans “strongly align with the region’s “CNY Rising” Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI) plan.

29. New Independent Study of All Possible Options to Replace I-81 Viaduct in Central New York
- This viaduct is in Syracuse and is in need of a replacement.
- The New York State Department of Transportation will engage an independent expert with international tunnel expertise to conduct the study.

30. $45 Million Revitalization of Syracuse Hancock International Airport
- Wide-scale redesign of the grand hall, food, beverage, and retail concessions, and the exterior fa├žade. In addition, a new Regional Aviation History Museum, glass pedestrian bridge, and eco-friendly roof, will be built along with new flooring and furniture to provide a welcoming atmosphere for travelers from across the world.
- Expected to create 850 construction jobs.
- Additional funding will come from the airport, County, and Federal Government; with estimated completion date in 2019.

31. Foster the Industrial Hemp Industry in New York State
- The Governor has proposed to amend Legislation to further grow the industry and authorize farmers to work with the State to conduct hemp research as an agricultural commodity.
- The Governor will host the first-ever Industrial Hemp Summit in the Southern Tier.

32. $38 Million Revitalization of Plattsburgh International Airport
- Modernize the airport, including the construction of a new air cargo receiving and distribution center. This will allow existing manufacturers to transport their own materials, create jobs, and attract new companies to the region.

33. Protect New Yorkers from Soaring Prescription Drug Prices
- Three-pronged plan. One, to effectively create a price ceiling for certain high cost prescription drugs reimbursed under the Medicaid program by requiring a 100% supplemental rebate for any amount that exceeds a benchmark price recommended by the State's Drug Utilization Review Board.
- Two, to have a Surcharge on any amount by which the price of these high-priced drugs exceeds the benchmark recommended by the Drug Utilization Review Board in the Medicaid context, when these drugs are sold into the State.
- Three, to have Pharmacy Benefit Managers register with the State, and be subject to new regulations requiring disclosure of financial incentives or benefits for promoting the use of certain drugs, as well as other financial arrangements affecting customers.

34. Launch the Empire Star Public Service Award to Recognize the Meaningful Contributions of Public Employees
- Award will go to those who go beyond simply what is routinely asked of them and display an admirable level of dedication and pride in their work.
- Individuals or teams will be nominated by their fellow State employees via the Empire Star Public Service Award website and an Awards Selection Committee will review all nominations and recommend winners to the Governor.
- Winners get a $5,000 Scholarship for Professional Development.

35. Restoring the Integrity and Accountability of State Government Through Comprehensive Ethics Reform
- Ten-point plan: limiting outside income and having a full-time Legislature imposed through Constitutional Amendment, term limits imposed through Constitutional Amendment, requiring Members of the Legislature to obtain an Advisory opinion before earning outside income, closing the so-called LLC Loophole and other Campaign Finance Reforms including a Public-Financing system, subjecting Local Elected officials to Financial Disclosure Requirements, Reform to the State’s Freedom of Information Law, expanding the State Inspector General's authority to SUNY and CUNY Not-for-Profits, new Inspectors General for the Port Authority and the State Education Department, and ensuring greater oversight of the State's Procurement process.

Governor Cuomo:

“State government must do more to restore the public trust because as public servants we earn the trust of the people we serve. Unfortunately, in Albany there have been a series of breaches of that trust. We must take action to show the people of this state that we get it, and that when someone does something wrong, they are punished to the full extent of the law and we have a system that is going to catch them. We have been doing historic work at the state level – the government is doing more than ever before – but imagine what we could do if we had the complete confidence of the people. If we had that confidence, there is nothing we couldn’t do – and I am not going to stop until I get there.”

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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