|Nathaniel Brooks/NY Times photo|
Meanwhile, back in Albany, our Sonofa Gov Andrew Cuomo delivered his ninth State of the State address last week.
This is the first in a series of posts about the SOTS - because it never fits into only one. We're New York, after all.
It's important to know going in that, for the first time in quite a while, a single party controls the governorship, the State Assembly, and the State Senate -- and that party, of course, is the Democrats. Almost uniformly, there's some salivating and chomping at the bit to get to work on a new, even more progressive agenda, and they are promising to waste little time in doing exactly that.
As is typical for this kind of speech (they honestly can't help themselves, I'm convinced), Cuomo started with introductions, mentioning Tish James, our new Attorney General. James is the first African-American woman to win a statewide race. Also mentioned? The first woman - and the first African-American woman - to lead one of the legislative chambers, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Carl Heastie, the Assembly leader. These two will be instrumental in helping push the agenda.
After the callouts to folks in the room, this was how Cuomo set the stage:
This year, we think it's the year to fully enact a justice agenda, in the broadest sense of the word 'justice.' Social justice, economic justice, and racial justice. And that this is the time to do it. We face real challenges in the state of New York. We have a federal government that is assaulting our values, our liberties, our rights, and our economy. Literally our economy. The federal cuts to our budget would be devastating and the federal effect on the values and liberties of New Yorkers would be devastating. And this is the moment in government that we are leading. And it is up to us to bring this state forward. We have no allies who are going to help us. The federal government is not going to help us. It's up to this legislative body to lead this state at this crucial time.He then turned to several 'good news' items, including having a "functional government" that is "competent" and "accomplishment oriented" - in fact, he said, "we're the most progressive government in the United States of America." Social accomplishments mentioned include:
- NY as the first big state to pass marriage equality
- being the first state to pass $15 - the highest minimum wage
- having the most aggressive building agenda
- being a national champion for organized labor
- implementing the first free college tuition program
- having the best paid family leave program in the nation and
- being a leader on gun safety
But there's more, much more, in the look-back.
On the economic front, Cuomo had a long list, which may seem contrary to what we hear, practically every day, about how horrible things are here in NY. Here's what we have going for us from Cuomo's perspective:
- balanced budgets
- 8.2 million private sector jobs, the highest in our state's history
- 3.9% unemployment (down from 8.4% when he was first elected), the lowest level ever
- growth across the entire state, from renovated airports in Rochester, Elmira/Corning, Syracuse, and Plattsburgh; the Peace Bridge/Gateway project in Buffalo; a new train station in Schenectady; the new Mario Cuomo bridge; the transformation of the Fairgrounds here in Syracuse, including the new Expo Center; a new National Comedy Center in Jamestown; and more. Lots more, covering tourism, transportation, education, parks, and even high speed broadband.
How did this happen, this massive list of development and infrastructure projects already completed, almost done, or set to be finished in the next few years?
We did all of this work and all of this investment and we have unprecedented fiscal integrity. State debt is down and our credit ratings are the highest levels since 1972. Because we managed government better, we were able to lower taxes, which are now at historic lows. Lowest middle class tax rate since 1947. Even I wasn't born in 1947! Lowest manufacturers tax since 1917. Lowest corporate tax since 1968.
So, a great record of accomplishment. A lot of momentum. But I really believe you ain't seen nothing yet, because I believe what we're going to get done in this legislative session is going to make history in the state of New York. And is going to make history in the nation.
We'll look at how that history will be made in upcoming posts. And, I'll include updates on legislative efforts that began even before the SOTS was delivered.