ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered a broad election-year agenda Wednesday in a State of the State speech that promoted a property tax freeze, tougher anti-corruption laws and modernizing New York City’s airports.
Cuomo is seeking a second term this year and the speech Wednesday gave him a high-profile forum to promote his first three years while unveiling an agenda with elements that aim to please both social progressives and financial conservatives.
In the speech, the governor touched on a sweeping $2 billion tax relief proposal, which he previewed earlier this week. The proposal includes property tax rebates for homeowners in municipalities that meet tax thresholds and a cut in corporate tax rates.
The proposal would provide relief to both businesses and homeowners, including a two-year freeze on property taxes that will save an average of $350 for nearly 2.8 million homeowners. This is especially important to Westchester County and Nassau County residents, who pay the highest property taxes in the nation.
“Once we get the negatives out of the way, the high taxes out of the way, then the assets of New York can shine. Nobody has what we have here in New York,” Cuomo added.
Cuomo has said economic development, taxes and government reform are top issues, and he stressed that theme as he promoted his tax proposal.
“Over the past three years, we have made unprecedented progress toward curbing the rise of taxes and government spending in New York, transforming a state budget with a $10 billion deficit to a $2 billion surplus,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo also announced new initiatives designed to attract more international business to the state and to increase exports; set a timetable for casino development, starting with the appointment of a siting board this month; and commit to upgrade John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports in New York City.
The governor said LaGuardia and JFK are busy but rate poorly in design and passenger experience. He said the development of a new central terminal at LaGuardia has been “frozen in time,” and that both airports need upgrades that will bring retail shopping, restaurants, on-airport hotels and free Wi-Fi.
As CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported, Cuomo said he will attempt to pass a $2 billion school bond referendum to retrofit schools across the street with 21st-century technology.
“There are great disparities in education,” he said. “At some schools, there are children who are on the Internet. Some schools, they don’t even have a basketball net.”
The bond issue is also intended to raise money for univeral pre-kindergarten, which may set the governor on a collision course with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who wants to tax the rich to pay for it.
“I think today he set the goal, and it’s absolutely the right goal for our city and state,” de Blasio said. “We have a specific way to get there. We think it’s the best way to get there for New York City, and we look forward to achieving that and leading the way.”
New details of Cuomo’s plan to allow 20 hospitals statewide to prescribe marijuana to patients with cancer and some other severe ailments were also revealed.
Cuomo’s medical marijuana plan will be enacted by executive order, not legislation, and will be more restrictive than programs in some other states such as California.
Cuomo said the initiative will help New Yorkers suffering from cancer and other severe ailments.
The limited plan was greeted by some in Cuomo’s Democratic base, though advocates want a more sweeping legalization of marijuana.
Cuomo also wants to increase the penalties for those 21 and younger convicted of texting while driving. They would lose their licenses for a year, instead of six months.
In addition, he will push for a three-stikes-and-out rule for drunken drivers. Anyone convicted of three DUIs would lose his or her license forever.
He also wants any politicians convicted of corruption to face a lifetime ban from government, including lobbying and doing any business with the state.
Reaction to the speech was mixed.
“It’s not the right tax cuts,” said Ed Cox, the state’s Republican Party chairman. “You ought to also be in addition to state taxes and other, you ought to be cutting capital gains and income tax because that’s what the job creators react to.”
The governor also found a new job for former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, who will be a special adviser to a state college on emergency preparedness, homeland security and counter-terrorism.
Cuomo will have to shepherd his legislative proposals through a Legislature that remains in split control. The Assembly’s Democratic majority has already called for another state minimum wage hike, mirroring Democrats around the nation backing the populist issue.
Republicans who rule the state Senate in a coalition with breakaway Democrats have said their priority is a tax-cut package that includes corporate tax rate reductions and permanently capping property taxes.
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