ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Gov. Andrew Cuomo will formally unveil his 2016 agenda and budget proposal Wednesday during his State of the State address to lawmakers. But he has already detailed many of his top priorities in a series of speeches throughout the state.
The Democratic governor is promising big investments in transportation, a plan to address corruption and a proposal to help the homeless in what he says will be his most ambitious to-do list since he took office in 2011. He is calling the agenda “Built to Lead,” a name he says recalls New York state’s tradition of using big investments like the Erie Canal to build for the future. The new plan calls for billions of dollars of investments in bridges, roads, rail, a convention center and Penn Station - the nation’s busiest train terminal.
“This is surely the most ambitious State of the State that I will have suggested,” he told a Manhattan audience on Thursday. “We will have the most aggressive development program in the history of the state of New York.”
TOLLS AND ROADS
Motorists who use the Thruway the most would get a tax credit under a plan from Cuomo that would also freeze tolls on the Thruway and the Tappan Zee Bridge until 2020. The governor’s proposal also calls for $22 billion in transportation investments, including $1 billion to upgrade and replace 200 bridges and $1 billion to pave 1,300 miles of state and local roads.
Cuomo wants to restart the long-discussed plan to revamp Penn Station, which he says is “dark,” ”ugly” and outdated. He has also called for a third rail line on the Long Island Rail Road.
Proposals to dig a tunnel between Long Island and the Bronx, Westchester County or even Connecticut date back nearly a century. The governor wants to devote $5 million to study the feasibility of the project, which would likely cost many billions and take decades to plan and complete.
The New York City convention center would double in size under Cuomo’s $1 billion plan to expand the facility.
Called “The Mario Cuomo Campaign for Economic Justice” after his father, Cuomo’s push for a phased-in $15 minimum wage is expected to be a defining issue in the legislative session. It’s a sure thing in the Assembly, but the Republicans in the Senate are likely to ask for big tax cuts or other trades in exchange. The increase, when fully implemented in 2021, would give New York the highest state minimum wage in the country.
On Saturday Cuomo proposed a $200 million upstate airport competition, which would award five $40 million prizes to the airports that submit the best revitalization plans.
Cuomo wants to cut small business taxes by $300 million. He will also have to weigh a proposal from Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to raise income taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers, a plan that already has drawn criticism in the GOP-led Senate.
The state’s environmental protection fund - which supports efforts to conserve land, protect farms, fight invasive species and revive waterfronts - would increase by $123 million to a total of $300 million under the governor’s proposal. Cuomo also wants to set aside $250 million for upgrades to local water and sewer systems around the state.
Democrats want a big injection of funds into public education - $2.4 billion is one suggested figure- and Republicans want to eliminate a policy that takes back some school aid to balance the state budget, a practice they say hits wealthier and suburban districts the hardest. Cuomo has yet to say what he will do.
Cuomo hasn’t released the details, but he promises to make efforts to address Albany corruption a top agenda item in 2016. Possibilities include proposals to revoke the state pensions of politicians convicted of corruption, tightening campaign finance rules and restricting lawmakers’ outside income.
New York City’s homelessness problem became the latest battleground in the feud between Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Cuomo’s administration has criticized de Blasio’s handling of the issue, and Cuomo has promised to offer his own proposal.
The ride-hailing service wants to enter the market in upstate cities such as Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse. Cuomo has signaled he supports the idea of state regulation to allow the expansion - an idea sure to worry taxi cab owners who say Uber should be held to the same rules as their industry.
HOW’S HE GOING TO PAY FOR IT?
The details won’t come out until Cuomo submits his budget recommendation, but the dollar amounts for Cuomo’s proposals may not be as high as they seem. Transportation projects will likely rely on significant federal investments. Upgrades to Penn Station would be financed by the developer - who would retain commercial rights at the facility. And while $250 million for water projects sounds like a huge amount, estimates are that the state needs to spend $40 billion in the next 20 years just to keep up with deterioration. Last year’s budget totaled $142 billion.
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