New York Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered his fourth State of the State speech from Albany Wednesday afternoon.
The governor noted that the state was in trouble three years ago with structural problems and spent too much, with businesses leaving the state, late budgets and high unemployment and property taxes.
But Cuomo noted his administration has reversed decades of decline with fiscal discipline, spending fewer funds and taxing less.
"Every New Yorker pays less today," said Governor Cuomo.
The governor pointed to a new direction and economic upswing for the Buffalo area. Cuomo said Western New York is on the upswing.
"Western New York is in the midst of an exciting transition. The Republic Steel plant that closed in 1984, which was the symbol of the low point of Buffalo, today is the same site where RiverBend is rising, a new R&D clean energy plant that's going to provide hundreds of jobs in Buffalo," Cuomo said.
Cuomo pointed to the City of Buffalo's economic development growth.
"There are even sightings in the Buffalo sky of a species long thought to be extinct in Buffalo. Cranes are flying, once again, in the Buffalo sky," Cuomo said. Referring to the large construction cranes building new projects in downtown Buffalo.
Cuomo also announced the establishment of a $100 million Genomic Medicine Center in Western New York in partnership with the University at Buffalo and Roswell Park Cancer Institute. It is the latest round of the Governor's promised "Billion to Buffalo."
"The Buffalo Billion is working. It really is working better than anyone could have anticipated. We want to take the next step and locate the Genomic Medicine Center in Western New York. Genomic medicine is the next frontier in modern medicine and we believe we can lead the way," Cuomo said.
"This important effort draws on many of our greatest assets as a premier research university – including our outstanding faculty, our reputation as a powerhouse in life sciences research and our considerable strength in supercomputing and medical information technology. With this trifecta of resources, UB is an ideal partner to transform medical diagnosis and treatment,” said UB President Satish K. Tripathi.
Cuomo speech included concerns of education. "It is time to fulfill the state's goal'' of providing access for all children to all-day pre-kindergarten.
The governor is also getting tougher on drunk drivers and teens caught texting and driving. He says any teen caught texting while driving should loss their license for one year. Anyone convicted of drunk driving twice in three years would lose their license for five years. Three strikes, he says, should lead to permanent revocation.
Cheektowaga Democratic Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak did not attend Wednesday's speech. Gabryszak is facing numerous sexual harassment allegations from former and current female staffers. There are indications he will be present at the start of the legislative session and may make his first public comments next week.
Some highlights of the speech include:
_ Support for universal all-day pre-kindergarten programs statewide.
_ A new SUNY College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity, with former New York City police Commissioner Ray Kelly as a special adviser.
_ A $2 billion ``Smart Schools'' bond referendum to help modernize classrooms.
_ A ``Teacher Excellence Fund'' to give teachers rated highly effective up to $20,000 in annual supplemental compensation.
_ Finalize plans for siting new casino resorts upstate by early fall.
_ A $2.2 billion package of tax relief for New York residents and businesses.
_ Increasing the New York estate tax threshold to $5.25 million from $1 million.
_ An ``Upstate-Downstate Food-to-Table Summit'' to link farmers with new markets.
_ A ``New York State Adventure License,'' a driver's license with icons for all of an individual's sporting licenses, the Boater Safety Certificate and
the lifetime Empire Pass to state parks.
_ Freeze property taxes for some owners and provide a refundable personal income tax credit to give some renters property tax relief.
_ A goal of awarding 5 percent of state contracts to the businesses of disabled veterans.
_ Launch a pilot medical marijuana research program allowing up to 20 hospitals to provide the drug to patients with certain serious illnesses.
_ Take over responsibility for airport construction from the Port Authority and modernize the JFK and LaGuardia airports.
_ Upgrade parts of the New York City commuter rail system to protect it from disasters and increase capacity.
_ Study improvements in the road network linking I-81 in Watertown to I-87 in Champlain.
_ Replacing and repairing 104 older bridges at risk due to increasing flooding.