Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered his State of the State Address on Wednesday.
According to the governor’s office, Gov. Cuomo’s agenda includes a full package of legislative reforms, robust investments and targeted actions – from a comprehensive women’s rights agenda to a first-in-the-nation plan to fight the federal tax assault to nation-leading criminal justice reforms – that will increase opportunity for New Yorkers and ensure the Empire State continues to serve as a beacon of equality, unity and fairness for the nation.
Building 21st Century Infrastructure
- Move I-81 Forward with Expanded Environmental Impact Statement:Governor Cuomo has been a strong advocate for revitalizing the I-81 viaduct and has pushed to carefully explore every option and alternative for this aging artery. In 2017, the Governor directed the New York State Department of Transportation to initiate an independent study of tunnel and depressed highway alternatives for the I-81 corridor, which concluded that while a tunnel is the most expensive option, it is technically feasible and could be studied in the Environmental Impact Statement. Governor Cuomo is now directing DOT to add the tunnel alternative to the current EIS for further review and consideration, which will ensure public and advisory agencies can provide comments on all three feasible alternatives—the viaduct replacement, community grid, and tunnel alternative—and the detailed engineering, social, economic and environmental studies performed for each.
- Expand Cashless Tolling to the Entire New York State Thruway and Port Authority Crossings: By eliminating the need to stop at a toll, this technology improves the driving experiences, expedites traffic flow and benefits those who live near tollbooths by reducing congestion-related emissions. The Governor championed the implementation of cashless tolling at MTA bridges and tunnels, which was completed in 2017, and also announced that same year the expansion of cashless tolling to the Thruway’s Harriman and Grand Island toll facilities. To expand these benefits across the state, Governor Cuomo plans to implement cashless tolling technology on all toll collection points along the Thruway. Additionally, the Governor has also urged the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to study the possibility of installing cashless toll collection on all PANYNJ operated Bridges and Tunnels. When complete, users of the Thruway, from New York City to Buffalo, will experience reductions in traffic congestion and improvements in travel times. The project will utilize Design-Build construction to reduce costs and accelerate the construction schedule. Cashless tolling throughout the Thruway system will be operational in 2020.
- Construct an Inland Port in Central New York to Improve Regional Trade:Building on Governor Cuomo’s historic investments in modernizing our infrastructure, New York will construct an inland port in the Town of DeWitt that will facilitate the movement of containerized freight by rail as opposed to truck. This initiative will improve the economic competitiveness of import/export businesses in Central New York while leveraging the privately-funded rail infrastructure serving the region. The inland port will serve to reduce the transportation costs of moving containerized freight between the Port of New York and New Jersey and the Central New York region by as much as $500 per container; retain and create freight-related jobs; reduce vehicle emissions; and remove large trucks from both the New York metropolitan area and from Interstate 81.
- Broadband for All: New NY Broadband Program Round III Awards: In 2015, the Governor created the New NY Broadband program, the largest and most ambitious state investment in broadband with the goal of ensuring all New Yorkers have access to high speed broadband. Since its launch, the program has reached 2.3 million homes and extended broadband access to over 98 percent of New Yorkers. This year, the Governor will advance Round III of New NY Broadband program awards to address the remaining two percent of New Yorkers, connecting an additional 120,000 locations. Round III will catalyze more than $360 million in total investment, including $225 million in State funding. With Round III, the Governor is proud to announce that New York has invested $1 billion in this effort and 99.9 percent of New Yorkers have commitments for high-speed broadband access, with all but one percent having access to 100 mbps service or better.
- Invest in New Mass Transit, New Roads and Bridges: In 2018, New York State will continue its landmark infrastructure program by investing $11.7 billion to transform the state’s transportation infrastructure. The State Department of Transportation will pave 2,000 miles of road and repair or rehabilitate 500 bridges, and the New York State Thruway Authority will renew an additional 170 lane miles, repair or rehabilitate 25 bridges and complete the new Governor Mario M. Cuomo bridge in 2018.
- Redevelop and Rebrand Stewart International: The Governor is calling on the Port Authority to approve this $34 million investment, which would increase access to world-class destinations and attractions throughout the Mid-Hudson Valley by supporting the construction of a permanent U.S. Customs and Border Protection federal inspection station. The new FIS will allow the airport to handle both domestic and international flights, while providing an improved passenger experience for all travelers. Additionally, as part of this modernization effort and to improve its name recognition, the airport will be rebranded as New York International at Stewart Field.
- Build a New Metro North Station at Woodbury Common: Woodbury Common attracts approximately 13 million visitors a year, causing significant congestion in the community, yet there is no rail option to provide visitors an alternative to driving. By spearheading the accelerated transformation of the Route 32 corridor at Woodbury Common, Governor Cuomo has already taken action to ease the congestion in the area. Building on this effort, Governor Cuomo will support a review of the potential for a public-private partnership to bring a new Metro North Station to Woodbury Common.
- Build the AirTrain to Create Train-to-Plane Access to LaGuardia Airport:LaGuardia Airport remains the only major East Coast airport without a direct rail link. To address this problem, Governor Cuomo is calling upon the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to expeditiously authorize the development of an AirTrain connection between LaGuardia and Willets Point in Queens, creating access to both the number 7 subway line and the Long Island Rail Road, which offer service to Grand Central, Penn Station and all of Long Island. The project is expected to be developed through a public-private partnership. The Port Authority will begin the environmental review process as soon as possible, with the goal of starting construction in 2019.
- Take Steps to Revitalize Red Hook: Red Hook, Brooklyn and its surrounding communities are emerging as a hub of possibility and opportunity. Governor Cuomo is calling on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to explore options for improving and consolidating maritime operations by relocating activities in Red Hook to South Brooklyn. In addition, the Governor is also calling on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to study options for improving transportation access to the Red Hook area and surrounding communities, including the potential extension of subway service from lower Manhattan to a new station in Red Hook through an underwater tunnel. Once a plan for how to modernize and potentially consolidate maritime activities becomes clear and the MTA study is completed, a community-based planning process with key participation by elected representatives and interested stakeholders would be expected to recommend the appropriate redevelopment alternatives for any Port Authority land no longer needed for maritime needs.
- Advance the Transformative Long Island Tunnel Proposal: In 2015, the Governor directed $5 million to the Department of Transportation to examine the feasibility of a tunnel connecting Long Island to Westchester County or Connecticut. This year, the Governor has directed that New York State should continue to pursue such a tunnel, a project which DOT has determined is feasible as a way of reducing traffic on the congested Long Island Expressway.
- Fight the Federal Tax Assault on New York: The recently enacted federal tax law is an assault on New York. By gutting the deductibility of state and local taxes, the law effectively raises middle class families’ property and state income taxes by 20 to 25 percent, and undermines a critical foundation of state and local government finances in New York State and across the nation. New York is already the top “donor state” in the nation—contributing $48 billion more annually to the federal government than it gets back—and under the new law the State will pay an additional $14 billion per year. Governor Cuomo believes that we must take dramatic action to preserve our state’s economy. He is putting forward a multi-part strategy to fight this assault on New York. First, we will challenge this unprecedented federal double taxation in court as unconstitutional, because it violates states’ rights and the principle of equal protection. Second, we will lead the nation’s resistance to the new law, starting a repeal-and-replace effort: “Tax Fairness for All” campaign. Third, we will take action to protect the state’s economy by exploring the feasibility of a major shift in tax policy, and are developing a plan to restructure the current income and payroll tax system, as well as create new opportunities for charitable contributions to support public programs. As we launch this massive and complicated undertaking, we will engage tax experts, employers, and other stakeholders in a thorough and collaborative process to produce a proposal that promotes fairness for New York’s taxpayers and safeguards the competitiveness of New York’s economy.
- Address the Carried Interest Loophole: Despite promises to the contrary, the federal government left in place the so-called “carried interest” loophole. Using a multi-state approach, Governor Cuomo will address this Wall Street giveaway.
- Reduce Taxes to Record Lows for Middle-Class New Yorkers: The Budget continues to lower Personal Income Tax rates for middle-class New Yorkers. With the middle class tax cuts of 2012, rates were lowered from 6.85 percent to 6.45 percent for taxpayers in the $40,000-$150,000 income bracket, and to 6.65 percent in the $150,000-$300,000 income bracket. Under these new reforms, the rate will drop even further this year, to 6.33 percent and 6.57 respectively. They will continue to drop all the way to 5.5 percent and 6 percent, respectively, when the cuts are fully phased in by 2025. The average New Yorker will save $250 in taxes in 2018, and $698 when fully phased in. These new lower tax rates will save middle class New Yorkers nearly $6.6 billion in just the first four years, and annual savings are projected to reach $4.2 billion and benefit 6 million filers by 2025. As the new rates phase in, they will be the state’s lowest middle class tax rates in more than 70 years.
- Continue to Reduce the Local Property Tax Burden by Making the State’s County Shared Services Panels Permanent: Governor Cuomo has made a historic commitment to reducing local property taxes for millions of New Yorkers. New York State will build on the historic progress achieved by taking the next step forward to provide local governments with new tools to put money back in the pockets of middle-class families. The state will provide $225 million in the FY 2019 budget to meet the match commitment of the County Wide Shared Services Initiative and the Governor will work to make the state’s successful county-wide shared services panels permanent in order to institutionalize savings initiatives. The Governor proposes that state funding for local government performance aid be conditional on the continuation of shared services panels. The state will also ease rules on the creation of local healthcare consortia to reduce local health insurance costs. The Governor will direct the New York State Department of Financial Services to publish guidance and provide technical assistance to local governments in order to ease the process of creating health consortia, specifically for smaller municipalities. The Governor has directed the Department of State and other agencies to continue to work with local municipalities to examine other legal and policy impediments to shared services by municipalities, such as zoning and other functions, to be considered this session. Additionally, to help communities across the state take advantage of Smart Street Lighting technology and its taxpayer savings and energy efficiency benefits, Governor Cuomo will launch a statewide Smart Street Lighting program to convert 500,000 street lights to LED technology by 2025. This program has the potential to reduce energy consumption annually across the state by 482 gigawatt hours, the equivalent of 44,770 households, save taxpayers $87 million annually, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the quality of light and safety of communities across the state. Finally, Governor Cuomo will continue the state’s local property tax relief program that will provide an average reduction of $380 in local property taxes to 2.6 million homeowners this year alone.
Advancing the Women’s Agenda
- Combat Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: The Governor will launch a multi-pronged agenda that targets sexual harassment in the workplace. The comprehensive reforms to protect women’s rights include legislation to prevent public dollars from being used to settle sexual harassment claims against individuals, void forced arbitration policies in employee contracts, and mandate that any companies that do business with the state disclose the number of sexual harassment adjudications and nondisclosure agreements they have executed.
- Remove Firearms from Domestic Abusers: New York law prohibits the possession of firearms for individuals convicted of felony or “serious” offenses. However, this excludes certain misdemeanor offenses involving domestic violence, such as assault and battery crimes or strangulation. To ensure that all domestic violence offenders are held to the same standard, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to include all domestic violence misdemeanors on the list of prohibited offenses.
- End Sextortion and Revenge Porn: To end this disturbing form of sexual exploitation, Governor Cuomo proposes a two-pronged approach that will criminalize disclosing or threatening to disclose sexually compromising images or videos with the intent to cause material harm to the victim’s mental or emotional health or to compel the victim to undertake some sexual act; and criminalize compelling a person to expose him or herself or engage in sexual conduct by threatening to harm the victim’s health, safety, business, career, financial condition, reputation or personal relationships. This new legislation will create the following crimes, which will also require registration as a sex offender:
- Unlawful Publication of Sexual Images: With intent to cause material harm to mental or emotional health, a person (1) disseminates images of intimate sexual nature; or (2) compels another to engage in conduct by threatening to disseminate images of an intimate sexual nature. This will be a class A misdemeanor; punishable by up to one year in jail or three years of probation.
- Sexual Extortion in the 3rd Degree: A person compels or induces another person to expose his or her sexual or intimate parts or engage in sexual conduct by instilling a fear in him or her that, if the demand is not complied with, the actor will perform an act intended to harm the person, or another person, with respect to his or her health, safety, business, career, financial condition, reputation or personal relationships. This will be a class E Felony; punishable by up to four years in prison.
- Sexual Extortion in the 2nd Degree: Same as above but the victim is under 17-years-old. This will be a class D Felony; punishable by up to seven years in prison.
- Sexual Extortion in the 1st Degree: Same as above but the victim is under 15-years-old. This will be a class C Felony; punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.
- Codify Roe v. Wade into State Law: For years, Governor Cuomo has pushed to codify the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision and subsequent rulings into state law to secure a woman’s access to reproductive health options. This year, the Governor will again call for the passage of legislation to ensure the rights of women to make personal health care decisions to protect their health in addition to their life, and to ensure that health care professionals can provide these crucial services without fear of criminal penalty. The Governor will also continue to champion a constitutional amendment to codify these protections into the state constitution.
- Pass the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act: Contraception has been a critical tool for women to gain economic and social independence. The use and availability of contraception also reduces the rate of unintended pregnancy and abortion. As the federal government rolls back access to reproductive health care, New York will not be part of an attempt to undermine the independence of women. In 2017, Governor Cuomo fought to uphold the reproductive health protections of the Affordable Care Act, no matter what happened at the federal level, by enacting regulations that ensured access to cost-free contraception and medically necessary abortion. In 2018, the Governor will advance a program bill to enshrine access to contraception including emergency contraception into New York State law, by passing the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act.
- Call on the New York State Common Retirement Fund to Invest in Companies with Women and Minority Leadership: New York State’s Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises Program has seen dramatic increases in participation due to the Governor’s goal of 30 percent MWBE State contract utilization—the highest goal of any state in the nation. However, despite this progress, women and minorities remain severely underrepresented in business ownership, in management roles and on corporate boards. To further address these imbalances, in 2018, Governor Cuomo will call for the New York Common Retirement Fund to invest in companies with adequate female and minority representation in their management and on their boards of directors. The Governor will work with Comptroller DiNapoli to put in place processes and standards to systematically invest in companies that invest in women and minority leadership.
- Reauthorize MWBE Program Legislation and Expand the MWBE Program to All State-Funded Contracts: Since taking office in 2011, Governor Cuomo has transformed the State’s MWBE program. In order to continue building on this promise, Governor Cuomo will propose legislation during the 2018 session that will reauthorize the law and expand the MWBE Program requirements to more contracts entirely funded by the state. The legislation will require MWBE goals on state funds used for contracting purposes on the local level. This will leverage the largest pool of state funding in history to combat systemic discrimination and create new opportunities for MWBE participation.
Criminal Justice For All
- Reshape Bail and Pretrial Detention: When New York’s laws governing bail were enacted back in the 1970s they were among the most progressive in the nation. Unfortunately, the status quo is no longer acceptable. Governor Cuomo is proposing legislation that will eliminate monetary bail for people facing misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges. Instead, people will be released either on their own recognizance or with non-monetary conditions imposed by the court, such as reporting to a pretrial services agency. For people charged with a violent felony offense, both monetary and non-monetary bail will be permitted, but only after a judge conducts an individualized review of the nature of the case and the defendant’s personal and financial circumstances. If monetary bail is set, the court must give the defendant a choice between cash or bail industry bonds and an alternative form of bail such as an unsecured or partially secured bond. Additionally, in limited cases such as domestic violence offenses, cases involving serious violence, or when a defendant commits a new crime while out on pretrial release, a judge could order, after due process, a defendant to be held in jail pretrial without bail if they find the defendant poses a significant flight risk or if there is a current threat to a reasonably identifiable person’s physical safety.
- Expand the Discovery Process: Under Governor Cuomo’s proposal, prosecutors and the defense will have to share information in a multi-stage time frame before a trial takes place. This will include disclosure of evidence and information favorable to the defense; intended exhibits; expert opinion evidence; witnesses’ criminal history information; and search warrant information will be made available to defendants in a timely and consistent manner. Doing so ensures attorneys have the tools necessary to adequately represent their clients. Additionally, along with an accelerated disclosure of witness information, this plan will provide numerous special procedures to ensure the safety of those witnesses and the integrity of the judicial process.
- Improve Access to a Speedy Trial: At the Governor’s direction, new legislation being advanced will guarantee that criminal cases proceed to trial without undue delay and that people are not held in jail for unreasonable periods of time. The legislation will reduce unnecessary delays and adjournments in court proceedings, requiring that people held in custody – not just their attorneys – consent to a speedy trial waiver that must be approved by a judge. These waivers include a deadline so that the defendant, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges understand when the trial is scheduled and will only be granted after the defendant has made an appearance before a judge. Courts will also conduct periodic reviews of cases where defendants are held in detention, to assess the prosecutor’s statement of readiness, reconsider bail status if appropriate, and schedule a pre-trial conference. A motion to dismiss must also now be made at least 20 days before the trial begins and it must include sworn factual allegations specifying the time periods that are being charged against the prosecution.
- Transform Civil Asset Forfeiture: New legislation will ban all asset seizures, unless an arrest is made. In cases where people are acquitted or the case is otherwise dismissed, they would get their money and valuables returned. Additionally, the State Division of Criminal Justice Services will expand reporting requirements to include additional information, such as demographic and geographic data, to better understand how civil asset forfeiture is used in New York State. Once a more comprehensive data set is created, New York will then evaluate the asset forfeiture system and make the appropriate changes to fix the identified issues.
- Improve the Re-Entry Process: The Governor is proposing to remove outdated statutory bans on occupational licensing for professions outside of law enforcement and instead, applicants will be assessed on an individual basis. The mandatory suspension of driver’s licenses following a drug conviction will also be removed to allow people to travel to work and attend drug treatment, as long as the crimes did not involve driving. Additionally, the Governor will safely widen release opportunities for people who have shown rehabilitation by expanding the type and variety of programs provided in state prisons to make those individuals eligible for merit release and limited credit time allowances. Under the proposal, the Parole Board will examine cases under a new “geriatric parole” provision in which the Board can balance any public safety risk posed by these individuals with their need for age-appropriate treatment in the community. The reforms will also speed returning citizens’ reintegration to society by reducing their financial burdens after release, including removing the current parole supervision fee and having local child support enforcement offices review child support orders for people incarcerated over six months. Finally, the Governor has ordered a comprehensive review of parole revocation guidelines and practices to determine appropriate alternatives to incarceration for those who violate technical parole conditions but pose no risk to public safety.
- Reduce New York’s Use of Solitary Confinement: In 2016, Governor Cuomo began implementing a historic agreement reached between the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to reduce the frequency and duration of solitary confinement and to improve conditions within state prisons. This year, the State intends to continue this massive overhaul by having the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision close over 1,200 solitary housing unit beds throughout New York State’s prisons.
- Protect the Rights and Safety of New Yorkers in Local Jails: To address deficiencies in all local jails, the Governor proposes an immediate enforcement strategy from the State Commission of Correction. The Commission—which is statutorily authorized to oversee all correctional facilities—will undertake a comprehensive review of facilities throughout New York that have repeatedly and egregiously failed to meet well-established standards of safety, security, and service. This review will include an analysis of reportable incidents, deaths in custody, and physical facility conditions. Upon the Commission’s determination, local jails with persistent, pervasive problems will be required to create and adhere to a corrective action plan to either improve their facilities—or close them in an expedited manner—to ensure the safety for both staff and incarcerated individuals.
- Support the Child Victims Act: The Governor seeks to eliminate statutes of limitation for all sexually-related criminal cases when committed against a person who is less than 18 years of age. Further, the Governor seeks to extend the statute of limitations for civil claims from three years from a victim’s 18th birthday to 50 years from the date of the offense. This would give many victims the opportunity to have their day in court. For any victim who is still unable to bring a lawsuit, the Governor would open a one-year window in which these victims are able to commence their claims. Finally, the Governor will eliminate the need to file a notice of claim with a public entity before being able to bring a lawsuit against that entity.
Launching A Comprehensive Plan to Attack Homelessness
- Increase Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness: To strengthen shelter services for homeless individuals living with mental illness in existing homeless shelters, Governor Cuomo will direct the Office of Mental Health and the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to work together to ensure that Assertive Community Treatment teams are connected to existing shelters, so that individuals with mental illness can access needed treatment. In addition, the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services will make on-site peer-delivered substance abuse treatment services available in 14 existing shelters across the state. These on-site services will assist approximately 200 homeless individuals with substance use disorder by providing services in shelters that are located in areas that have seen the biggest increases in substance use.
- Require Outreach and a Comprehensive Homeless Services Plan from Each Local Social Services District: Homelessness is on the rise and street homelessness is the most difficult problem to solve. Governor Cuomo will require that local governments have an effective outreach program to address street homelessness as a condition of receiving state funding for homelessness services. He is also directing that the MTA, the Port Authority, Centro, Capital District Transportation Authority, the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority and the Niagara Frontier Transit Authority do the same. The Governor will direct the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to require social services districts to engage in planning activities related to street outreach, homelessness prevention activities, rapid rehousing, and ongoing housing stability for the formerly homeless. The State will also require social service districts to engage with the State’s ongoing efforts, set reasonable goals that are data-driven and uniquely tailored to the needs of its communities, and to report regularly on progress made. The State will provide technical assistance throughout the planning process by releasing guidance related to best practices and policies that can facilitate success.
We Are All New Yorkers – Immigrants’ Rights
- Continue the First-In-the-Nation Liberty Defense Project to Provide Critical Legal Representation to Immigrants: Last year, Governor Cuomo successfully launched the Liberty Defense Project, a first-in-the nation, state-led, public-private legal defense fund to ensure that all immigrants, regardless of status, have access to high quality legal counsel. In partnership with leading nonprofit legal service providers, the project has significantly expanded the availability of immigration attorneys statewide. As misguided immigration policy at the federal level continues to threaten New York’s immigrant families, Governor Cuomo will work to ensure that the Liberty Defense Project continue to sustain and grow the network of legal service providers providing these critical service in defense of our immigrant communities.
- Pass the DREAM Act: Since 2002, undocumented students qualify for in-state tuition at SUNY and CUNY if they graduated from a New York high school or received a GED in the state. Yet, each year, many talented students who graduate from New York high schools remain unable to fulfill their potential simply because they cannot afford the tuition and lack access to tuition assistance to help pay for school. We can do better. Governor Cuomo will press for the passage of the DREAM Act to finally open the doors of higher education to thousands of New Yorkers. The DREAM Act will give undocumented students access to the Tuition Assistance Program, as well as state-administered scholarships. An investment in young immigrants’ futures is an investment in New York’s future.
Protecting the Rights of Workers
- Examine Eliminating the Minimum Wage Tip Credit to Strengthen Economic Justice in New York State: Governor Cuomo is directing the Commissioner of Labor to schedule public hearings to evaluate the possibility of ending minimum wage tip credits in New York State. The Department of Labor will hold public hearings to solicit input from workers, businesses and others to ensure New York continues to protect economic justice for all New Yorkers.
- Stand with Labor Unions Facing Uncertainty from the Supreme Court:Public-sector labor unions are under attack on the national level, facing legal challenges to their very core. The United States Supreme Court will soon hear Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees which seeks to effectively end public labor unions. The Court will determine whether fee arrangements like those permissible under the Taylor Law violate the First Amendment. As the nation waits for a decision in the Janus case, Governor Cuomo stands beside public labor unions in their fight for survival and will do everything in his power to preserve workers’ rights and protect the right to organize and collectively bargain.
Serving Our Veterans
- Prevent Financial Exploitation of Veterans and Their Families: Veterans who fight to protect our state and nation should never have to continue fighting enemies when they return home. Far too often, deceitful businesses target veterans who are elderly and/or disabled, promising to help veterans and their family members obtain federal benefits in exchange for an often-substantial fee. Governor Cuomo proposes to enact the nation’s strongest legislation against pension poaching to eliminate this predatory conduct. This law will implement new disclosure requirements for businesses that advertise their fee-based services of filing claims and appeals for VA benefits, and will enable the prosecution of businesses that violate these standards.
- Properly Designate New York State’s Veterans Service Agency: The New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs is commonly mistaken for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. To avoid this confusion, the New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs will now become the New York State Division of Veterans’ Services. This new name accurately defines the core mission of this agency—serving veterans and their families the rest of the way—and clearly distinguishes the Division from the federal VA, avoiding any unnecessary mistakes and confusion moving forward.
- Expand Programs for Veterans Behind Bars: Through the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), the Governor implemented three Veterans Residential Therapeutic Programs at Medium Security Correctional Facilities that identify each veteran’s individual needs and provide them with corresponding services. Under this new proposal, the Governor will provide resources to expand the programs available and offer the programs in Maximum Security Facilities for the first time.
- Deliver Access to Justice for Veterans through Law School Partnerships:Building on the success of New York’s Justice for Heroes grants, Governor Cuomo will expand the program to offer participating schools the chance to renew their grants for the next two years. By providing law schools with a total of up to $150,000, each participating school will be able to improve the sustainability of its new legal services initiatives, ensuring that free legal services for veterans and their families will be provided by faculty and students at these schools for many years to come.
The Importance of Early Education
- Invest When It Matters Most: The First 1,000 Days of Life: In August of 2017, Governor Cuomo directed the Department of Health to create a First 1,000 Days on Medicaid working group to identify and recommend ways to improve outcomes and opportunities for young children and their families through access to childhood health services, and expansion of other health and early childhood system coordination and family supports. Based on the recommendations of the working group, Governor Cuomo will begin implementation of the comprehensive First 1,000 Days Plan to:
- Develop a clear, standardized model of pediatric primary care to ensure that growth and development are on track and establish a uniform measurement tool for providers and educators to assess child development upon Kindergarten entry.
- Facilitate group-based models of prenatal care to support pregnant women living in neighborhoods with the poorest birth outcomes in the state, including high incidence of preterm births and low birth weights.
- Enhance home visiting services in three high risk communities using a targeted approach to match families to a home visiting program that best fits their needs and eligibility.
- Launch peer-family navigator services in non-healthcare community settings, such as family homeless shelters and drug treatment centers, to facilitate effective warm handoffs from the provider diagnosing the child to the treatment provider allowing continuity of care in services for at risk families.
- Provide parents of young children with improved access to evidence based parent-child therapy models.
- Expand Pre-Kindergarten for 3- and 4-Year-Olds in High-Need Schools Across the State: Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, the State has more than doubled its commitment to pre-kindergarten from $385 million to more than $800 million. In addition, since Governor Cuomo introduced three-year-old pre-kindergarten in 2015, more than $30 million is now dedicated to high-need three-year-olds alone. Governor Cuomo will continue to invest in pre-kindergarten by investing an additional $15 million create 3,000 new slots for three and four-year-olds in high-need schools around the state.
- Establish the Child Care Availability Taskforce: To build on the state’s investments in child care and the development of safe, accessible, and affordable child care, the Governor is establishing a new Child Care Availability Taskforce. This taskforce, which will include representatives from the child care provider community, the advocacy community, representatives of the business community, unions that represent child care providers, representatives from several state agencies and local departments of social services, will be responsible for examining access to affordable child care; availability of child care for those with non-traditional work hours; statutory and regulatory changes that could promote or enhance access to child care; business incentives to increase child care access; and the impact on tax credits and deductions relating to child care.
Five Point Plan to Ensure No Student Goes Hungry
- Ban Lunch Shaming Statewide: Lunch shaming is a disgraceful practice in some schools where children are publicly humiliated in front of their peers by adults for not having money for lunch. The Governor will propose a law that when passed, would immediately end the practice of lunch shaming of any kind.
- Require Breakfast After the Bell: In order to expand access to breakfast and prevent students from going hungry during morning classes, Governor Cuomo will propose requiring schools with more than 70 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch to provide breakfast after the school day has begun for the next school year. In successful breakfast after the bell programs, schools can either serve breakfast in the classroom, or offer nutritious vending machines options to ensure that students have access to breakfast as they start their day. To ease the transition, the state will provide technical assistance and capital funds for equipment such as coolers and vending machines to support breakfast after the bell.
- Expand Farm to School: New York will double the state’s investment in the Farm to School program to support the use of healthy, local, New York foods in school districts across the state. The Farm to School program was created to connect schools with local farmers and offers technical assistance and capacity in the school to source products locally to help schools provide students with nutritious meals from food produced by local farms.
- Increase the Use of Farm-Fresh, Locally Grown Foods at School: Lack of healthy, nutritious food can impair a child’s ability to concentrate and perform well in school. It is also often linked to higher levels of behavioral and emotional problems for children in preschool through adolescence. To incentivize school districts to use more local farm-fresh products, Governor Cuomo will propose an increase in the reimbursement schools receive for lunches from the current 5.9 cents per meal to 25 cents per meal for any district that purchases at least 30 percent of its ingredients from New York farms.
- Require Food Pantries on All SUNY and CUNY Campuses: To ensure consistent healthy food options are available to young adults on college campuses, the Governor will require all SUNY and CUNY schools to either provide physical food pantries on campus, or enable students to receive food through a separate arrangement that is stigma-free. The Governor proposes a $1 million state investment for schools to implement the program.
Expanding High Quality Educational Programming For All
- Launch An Additional Round of the Empire State After-School Program:Last year, Governor Cuomo created the Empire State After-School program, which provided $35 million to create 22,000 after-school spots in high-need communities. This year, the Governor proposes an additional $10 million to support the creation of 6,250 new slots in communities with high rates of student homelessness, or designated as in need of a safe place for students to go after the school day ends. High-quality after school programs are associated with a return of $3 for every dollar spent.
- Expand Successful Early College High School Program by Growing the Network of Schools Throughout the State: During the Governor’s administration, New York has spent $47 million to support Early College High Schools, an innovative program where students can earn college credits leading to an associate’s degree while earning their high school diploma. In order to expand the Early College High School program model to students across the State, the Governor is proposing an additional $9 million to support the creation of at least 15 Early College High Schools, where schools will partner with a college or university and industry partner to create opportunities for every student in the school to graduate with some college credit.
- Expand Computer Science Education to All Elementary, Middle, and High Schools: Technology is among the fastest growing employment sectors, and New York students need to be prepared for the jobs for tomorrow. In order to ensure that New York schools are able to offer coursework in computer science, the Governor proposes a $6 million annual commitment to provide teacher support and development in computer science and engineering. In addition, the Governor will call on the State Education Department to work with industry leaders to develop model computer science standards.
Expanding Access to Higher Education
- Launch the Second Phase of the Excelsior Free Tuition Program: Last year, Governor Cuomo created the historic Excelsior Scholarship, the first-in-the-nation program to provide free tuition at New York’s public colleges and universities for middle class families. Along with other sources of tuition assistance, including the generous New York State Tuition Assistance Program, the Excelsior Scholarship allows approximately 53 percent of full-time SUNY and CUNY in-state students, or more than 210,000 New York residents, to attend school tuition-free. In FY 2019, the Excelsior Scholarship will enter year two of a three-year phase-in. Starting in the 2018-19 academic year, the Excelsior Scholarship income eligibility threshold will increase, allowing New Yorkers with household incomes up to $110,000 to be eligible. To continue this landmark program, the Governor is proposing $118 million to support 27,000 students in the Excelsior Scholarship program.
- Combat Exploding Student Debt: Increasing access to an affordable higher education is critical and New York State has led the way. The Governor will advance a comprehensive plan to further reduce student debt that includes creating a Student Loan Ombudsman at the Department of Financial Services; requiring all colleges annually provide students with estimated amounts incurred for student loans, such as the amount of student loans incurred to date, a range of the total payoff amount including principal and interest, and the monthly repayment amount that the student may incur for the loan to date; enacting sweeping protections for students including ensuring that no student loan servicers or debt consultants can mislead a borrower or engage in any predatory act or practice, misapply payments, provide credit reporting agencies with inaccurate information, or any other practices that may harm the borrower; and prohibiting the suspension of professional licenses of individuals behind or in default on their student loans.
Preparing the Workforce of Today & Tomorrow
- Establish a new, $175 million Consolidated Funding Application for workforce investments through the Regional Economic Development Councils, targeted in emerging fields: Establishing the Consolidated Funding Application for economic development funds is one of the Governor’s signature economic development achievements — a bottom-up approach that brings together higher education, industry and government leaders to plan the future of their region. The State has invested more than $5.4 billion through the REDCs that have funded more than 6,300 projects and supports more than 220,000 jobs across the state. Building on the success of this bottom-up model, establishing a new Consolidated Funding Application for workforce investments would support strategic regional efforts that meet businesses’ short-term workforce needs, improve regional talent pipelines, expand apprenticeships, and address the long-term needs of expanding industries—with a particular focus on emerging fields with growing demand for jobs like clean energy and technology. Funds would also support efforts to improve the economic security of women, youth, and other populations that face significant barriers to career advancement. The funding for the workforce CFA will consist both of $150 million in new, flexible resources and $25 million in existing streams of workforce funding.
- Expand the New York Youth Works Program: To build on the success of the Youth Jobs Program, Governor Cuomo proposes to increase the maximum credit available to certified New York employers by 50 percent—raising the maximum tax credit from $5,000 to $7,500 for certified youth employed full-time and from $2,500 to $3,750 for those employed part-time. In addition, to help participants better-develop the skills needed to advance from an entry-level position toward a chosen career, the Governor will direct the Department of Labor to align and connect employers and youth participating in the Youth Jobs Program with regional workforce development efforts of SUNY, CUNY and New York’s BOCES. This alignment will leverage State workforce investments and augment skills development that employers are able to provide on-site with additional workforce support in the classroom and online.
- Create New Office of Workforce Development: Currently, there are dozens of programs available in various agencies, but if we are to maximize our capacity to meet the state’s workforce needs, the state needs to better integrate this fragmented process. The Office of Workforce Development will serve as a focal point of accountability and coordination for all workforce training programs for the state, including the new CFA program. Headed by a new Director of Workforce Development, the Office will establish standards for program performance and ensure alignment with the economic development goals of the state and the individual regions. The Director will serve on the State Workforce Investment Board, the Strategic Implementation Assessment Team (which reviews proposals submitted by the 10 Regional Economic Development Councils), and the Regional Community College Councils.
Continue the Bottom Up Regional Economic Development Strategy
- Invest $750 Million for Round Eight of the Regional Economic Development Councils: Governor Cuomo created the Regional Economic Development Council competition in 2011 to develop regional economic development plans through a bottom-up approach that brought together higher education, industry and government leaders to plan the future of their region. The State has invested more than $5.4 billion through the REDCs that has funded more than 6,300 projects and supports more than 220,000 jobs across the state. To build on the success of the REDC program, the Governor proposes continuing this regional economic development approach with an eighth round of the REDC awards with $750 million to fund regional priority projects.
- Launch Round Three of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative: To give communities the tools they need to select and fuel targeted revitalization strategies, and build on the Governor’s proven track record in energizing the state economy, New York State will expand its already-successful Downtown Revitalization Initiative with an additional $100 million, providing up to $10 million for awards in each region. Together, these investments will ensure that communities have the tools they need to boost their local economies and transform downtown neighborhoods.
Fueling Clean Energy Jobs
- Increase Transmission of Clean and Renewable Energy By Investing $200 Million to Meet Unprecedented Energy Storage Target of 1,500 Megawatts by 2025: As renewable energy sources produce a larger share of New York’s electricity, New York must also address the intermittency of clean resources like wind and solar that are not continuously available. To address these energy challenges and further New York’s climate and clean energy goals, the Governor is launching an initiative to deploy 1,500 megawatts of energy storage – representing the largest commitment per capita by any state – by 2025 and employ 30,000 New Yorkers in this industry. To achieve this goal, Governor Cuomo is directing state agencies and authorities to work together during 2018 to generate a pipeline of storage projects through utility procurements, to advance regulatory changes in utility rates and wholesale energy markets, to incorporate storage into criteria for large scale renewable procurements and to reduce regulatory barriers. The Governor is also announcing a commitment of at least $200 million from the NY Green Bank for storage-related investments to help drive down costs and to strategically deploy energy storage to where the grid needs it most, Finally, the Governor is also directing NYSERDA to invest at least $60 million through storage pilots and activities to reduce barriers to deploying energy storage.
- Solicit Proposals for Offshore Wind: To position New York as the leading offshore wind market in the United States and to drive competition, reduce costs and create jobs in this emerging industry, Governor Cuomo is calling for the state to procure at least 800 megawatts of offshore wind power between two solicitations to be issued in 2018 and 2019, resulting in enough clean, renewable energy to power 400,000 New York households. The Governor is also directing NYSERDA to invest $15 million in clean energy workforce development and infrastructure advancement to train workers for jobs in this industry, including offshore wind construction, installation, operation, maintenance, design and associated infrastructure. To attract private investment in port infrastructure and supply chain activities, Governor Cuomo is also directing NYSERDA to work with Empire State Development and other State agencies to determine the most promising public and private offshore wind port infrastructure investments.
- Divest the New York Common Fund from Fossil Fuel Investments: New York State has taken major steps to reduce its carbon footprint and cut back on the use of fossil fuels as an energy source, yet the New York Common Fund remains heavily invested in fossil fuels. The Governor is calling on the Fund to divest from significant fossil fuel investments and to cease all new investments with entities with significant fossil fuel-related activities. Additionally, the Governor will work with the State Comptroller to create an advisory committee of financial, economic, scientific, business and workforce representatives as a resource for the Common Fund to develop a de-carbonization roadmap to invest in opportunities to combat climate change and support the clean tech economy while assessing financial risks and protecting the Fund. Finally, the Governor calls on the Fund to dedicate a meaningful portion of the Fund’s portfolio to investments that directly promote clean energy—which makes economic and environmental sense.
Cleaner, Greener, Healthier New York
- Reverse the Opioid Epidemic: At Governor Cuomo’s direction, New York has taken bold steps in confronting the local effects of a nationwide crisis of deadly addiction to opioids, with significant increases in treatment capacity, strong support services, the removal of barriers to accessing high quality treatment, and public awareness and education activities. However, despite this progress, far too many New Yorkers continue to suffer at the hands of addiction. To address this public health crisis, Governor Cuomo is proposing a comprehensive plan to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for perpetuating the epidemic; strengthen protections against addiction stemming from prescription opioids; take steps to eliminate insurance barriers to addiction treatment and recovery services; direct state agencies to implement regulatory and policy reforms that increase access to substance use disorder services; and advance legislation to add 11 fentanyl analogs to Schedule I of the controlled substance schedules of New York State Public Health Law.
- Enforce Lead Testing: Limiting lead exposure is critical to safeguarding the health and safety of children across New York State. Governor Cuomo is directing the State Department of Health, New York State Homes and Community Renewal, and other state partners to develop a system to ensure all housing authorities and all private landlords in the state protect children from this hazard. This proposal comes following the New York City Housing Authority’s unacceptable revelation of its failure to abate lead paint and notify tenants of the danger.
Expanding Access to Open Space
- Complete the Hudson River Park: Encompassing more than 500 acres and stretching 4.5 miles along Manhattan’s West Side, the Hudson River Park is the borough’s second largest park after Central Park. Under Governor Cuomo, the State’s investment in the Hudson River Park has remained strong, facilitating the redevelopment of Pier 26, Pier 57 and key infrastructure repairs after the damage inflicted by Superstorm Sandy, among other important projects. However, despite these commitments the park is still only 77 percent complete and the original 2005 deadline envisioned for completing the park is long past due. This year, Governor Cuomo is committing to fulfill his father’s nation-leading vision. The Governor will work with the city to make the phased and matched investments necessary to get the job done. In addition, the State will continue to facilitate public-private partnerships, while ensuring the Estuary Management Plan is complete and the marine sanctuary is protected.
Protecting Our Clean Water
- Fast-Track Containment and Treatment of the Grumman Plume: In Nassau County, industrial practices at the U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman Aerospace Bethpage facilities in the Town of Oyster Bay have left a legacy of pollution in the form of a massive contaminated groundwater plume that has affected the surrounding community since the 1930s. At the Governor’s direction, the State Department of Environmental Conservation launched an engineering investigation to assess expedited cleanup options, including full containment of the plume, in order to ensure the contamination does not threaten additional drinking water wells. This year, the state will fast-track construction of a new, state-of-the-art well system to fully contain and treat the plume of contamination and protect the quality of drinking water on Long Island and will use all legal tools at its disposal to hold the U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman accountable for the construction and operation of the containment and treatment system.
- Sue the EPA to Complete the Hudson River Cleanup: Governor Cuomo, in partnership with Attorney General Schneiderman, has committed to immediately take necessary steps to sue the EPA if the agency accepts the Upper Hudson River cleanup of polychlorinated biphenyls as complete. In light of the overwhelming evidence and data that the remedy is not protective of human health and the environment, the EPA’s decision to certify the PCB remedy for the Upper Hudson River as complete is indefensible. As the EPA continues to abdicate its responsibility, Governor Cuomo will fight to protect the river and the surrounding communities. New York is also prepared to withdraw from the 2002 Record of Decision, signed under a previous administration, which guided the cleanup and removal of millions of tons of PCB-contaminated sediment from the Upper Hudson River.
- Attack Harmful Algal Blooms in New York’s Waters: Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, the state has taken comprehensive steps to address the growing threat of harmful algal blooms in New York’s waterbodies. This year, the Governor will implement a $65 million initiative to aggressively combat harmful algal blooms in Upstate New York, focusing on 12 priority lakes that are especially vulnerable to HABs.
- Require Expedited Corrective Actions at the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Facility: Following visible releases of dark water discharges from the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Facility, Governor Cuomo directed the State Department of Environmental Conservation to hold the Niagara Falls Water Board accountable and to take actions to protect water quality at this iconic tourist attraction. To ensure that the Niagara Falls wastewater facility’s problems are resolved in a comprehensive fashion, Governor Cuomo will invest over $20 million to launch Phase One of the wastewater system overhaul to complete comprehensive infrastructure and operational improvements at the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Facility. The Governor’s proposal also provides $500,000 to expedite two engineering studies to evaluate both the plant’s discharges and treatment systems, which are required by the new consent order with the Niagara Falls Water Board.
Leading the Fight Against Climate Change
- Expand Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and Reduce Emissions Equitably from the Highest-Polluting, High Demand “Peaker” Power Plants: In 2013, Governor Cuomo led the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) states in reducing the cap on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from power plants 50 percent by 2020. In August 2017, the other RGGI states agreed to Governor Cuomo’s 2017 State of the State call to reduce the cap another 30 percent by 2030. In addition, Governor Cuomo has committed to phasing out the use of coal in the state’s power plants by 2020. In 2018, Governor Cuomo looks forward to working with the other RGGI states and potential new partners in Virginia and New Jersey to ensure a smooth transition to a broader, more cost-efficient GHG market that maintains the initiative’s ambitious reductions in climate pollution. The Department of Environmental Conservation will also undertake a rulemaking in 2018 to implement the 30 percent cap reduction announced by the RGGI states in August 2017, including revisions to strengthen RGGI by grouping together and thereby covering peaking units that collectively exceed RGGI’s capacity threshold of 25 megawatts, including revisions to strengthen RGGI by grouping together and thereby covering peaking units that collectively exceed RGGI’s capacity threshold of 25 megawatts. This year, DEC will also propose complementary reforms to reduce emissions of smog-forming pollutants from peaking units and will adopt regulations ending the use of coal in the state’s power plants by 2020.
- Reconvene Scientific Advisory Committee on Climate Change Disbanded by the Federal Government: After announcing its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, the federal government took another misguided step by disbanding the Federal Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment, a group of leading scientists and stakeholders tasked with providing recommendations to the federal government to support state and local governments, communities and the private sector in planning for the effects of climate change. Therefore, Governor Cuomo, as co-chair of the U.S. Climate Alliance and in collaboration with partners, will reconvene the Advisory Committee to develop recommendations to navigate the challenges of climate change. As a result, the Advisory Committee will continue its critical work without political interference and provide the guidance needed to adapt to a changing climate.
- Launch Resilient NY to Dramatically Enhance Community Resiliency in the Face of Extreme Weather: Following dozens of extreme weather events in New York State, Governor Cuomo has taken bold and aggressive action to ensure that communities affected by extreme weather not only recover, but build back better than before. This year, the Governor proposes to develop a comprehensive program to adapt to and prepare for extreme weather associated with climate change. This plan will address resiliency guidelines and will provide state financial support for state-of-the-art local resiliency plans to help protect communities from flooding.
- Invest Nearly $130 Million in Volkswagen Settlement Proceeds in Clean Transportation Projects: At Governor Cuomo’s direction, the Department of Environmental Conservation is working with other state agencies and stakeholders to develop a plan to invest the $127.7 million available to New York from the settlement of Volkswagen’s violation of the Clean Air Act. All categories of investment will prioritize replacement of diesel vehicles with emission-free electric vehicles, stimulating the transformation to a low-carbon transportation system. With this strategic, comprehensive plan, New York State will seek to invest all of the Volkswagen settlement funds over the next three years.
Protecting the Sanctity of Our Elections
- Increase Transparency in Digital Political Ads: To ensure the fairness and transparency of New York elections, Governor Cuomo is putting forth a three-pronged strategy to:
- Expand New York State’s definition of political communication to include paid internet and digital advertisements: This proposal will update the definition of “political communication” to include paid internet and digital advertisements, and require that all advertisers include a disclosure in their election-related ads, such as “paid for by.”
- Require digital platforms to maintain a public file of all political advertisements purchased by a person or group for publication on the platform: Governor Cuomo proposes to require digital platforms to maintain a public file of all political communications purchased by a person or group on their platform related to New York State elections. The file would contain a digital copy of the advertisement, a description of the audience the advertisement targets, the number of views generated, the dates and times of publication, the rates charged, and the contact information of the purchaser. This archive will ensure that political ads do not disappear, and that they are viewable, and able to be fact-checked, by a larger portion of the electorate.
- Require online platforms to make reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities are not purchasing political advertisements in order to influence the American electorate:Governor Cuomo proposes to amend state law so that paid internet or digital advertisements are included in the definition of political communications. This will help ensure that foreign entities are unable to covertly purchase and distribute political advertising related to state elections through social media or other outlets. Under the new law digital ad buyers will be required to register as an independent expenditure committee, just as they would if they were purchasing time on television. Foreign entities will be prohibited from forming an independent committee and, as a result, would be unable to purchase and publish political advertising online. Violations of these requirements would be subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,000 for each instance.
- Institute Early Voting: Currently, New York is one of only 13 states where early voting is not available and an excuse is required to request an absentee ballot. To make it easier for New Yorkers to vote, Governor Cuomo proposes instituting early voting in the state, requiring every county to offer residents access to at least one early voting poll site during the 12 days leading up to Election Day. Counties must have one early voting poll site for every 50,000 residents, and voters will have at least eight hours on weekdays and five hours on weekends to cast early ballots.
- Adopt Automatic Voter Registration: To modernize the voter registration process, Governor Cuomo proposes adopting a system that implements automatic voter registration, streamlining state services by automatically sending voters’ information from relevant agencies directly to the County Board of Elections.
- Allow Same-Day Voter Registration: New York does not currently allow voters to register to vote on Election Day. Governor Cuomo proposes to allow New Yorkers to register and vote on the same day so that onerous registration deadlines do not prevent New Yorkers from having the opportunity to participate in the electoral process.
- Enhance Statewide Election Cyber Security Resilience and Defend Against Election Disruption: This year, the Governor proposes taking action to secure our democracy through bold steps to protect the state’s elections:
- Create the Election Support Center: This will provide technical expertise and trainers to assist the State Board of Elections with developing regulations to enhance the cyber security of elections infrastructure; train county Boards of Elections members in cyber security best practices; and ensure that relevant threat intelligence is quickly distributed to local stakeholders.
- Create and Deploy the Elections Cyber Security Support Toolkit: The toolkit includes a new suite of threat mitigation tools to ensure election security at the state and local levels. This will include log-in and network monitoring software and hardware services, Distributed Denial of Service defense, and change-detection software to ensure that all changes to voter databases are logged and monitored, and any discrepancies are identified, investigated and corrected in a timely manner.
Increasing Transparency and Continuing Ethics Reform
- Advance Constitutional Amendment Limiting Outside Income and Creating a Full-time Legislature: The Legislature’s part-time structure allows professionals from a variety of backgrounds and experiences to serve the public. Yet concerns have been raised about potential conflicts of interests that may arise from income legislators derive from other employment. To strike the right balance between public service and private ventures, the Governor proposes a constitutional amendment to be put before the voters that would limit outside income for legislators to 15 percent of their base salary. This 15 percent limit is the same limit our federal government places on federal legislators’ outside income.
- Advance Constitutional Amendment Imposing Term Limits for Elected Officials: Current term limits require members of the Legislature to seek re-election every two years, yet there are no limits on the number of terms they may seek. The Governor proposes a constitutional amendment to create 4-year legislative terms for members of the Senate and the Assembly. The proposed constitutional amendment would also impose 8-year term limits for new members, and impose term limits for statewide officials.
- Require Members of the Legislature Seeking Outside Income to Obtain an Advisory Opinion Before Earning Outside Income: Currently legislators may earn income from private ventures without being required to obtain any analysis or approval regarding whether the outside income presents conflicts of interest with their duties to the public. As such, the Governor proposes legislation which would require all legislators to seek an advisory opinion from the legislative ethics commission before earning outside income. To further support in their deliberations and discussions regarding outside income and conflicts of interest and reinforce the public’s trust in the process, a designee from the Office of Court Administration would serve on the commission. By examining compensation from non-state activities on a case by case basis, this measure would help guide our elected representatives, prevent conflicts of interest, and increase the public’s trust in all their elected officials.
- Close the LLC Loophole: To preserve open, free, and fair elections that are not captured by wealthy public interests, state law limits the amounts that both corporations and individuals may donate directly to state candidates. However, because of a quirk in the way that present election law is interpreted, wealthy individuals and corporations can use Limited Liability Companies (“LLCs”) to avoid New York’s campaign donation limits. This “LLC Loophole” in campaign finance law has allowed special interests to circumvent both contribution limits and disclosure requirements. The Governor proposes closing the LLC Loophole for all elected officials. It is our responsibility to even the playing field so that rich and poor New Yorkers alike have their voices heard in our political process.
- Subject Local Elected Officials to Financial Disclosure Requirements: The Governor proposes that any local elected official who earns more than $50,000 per year in a government salary, as well as all county executives, county managers, and all chairs of county board of supervisors file the same financial disclosure statements that state employees file with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or a similar form to be approved by the state. This means that municipal employees would provide the same information in their financial disclosure statements as state employees, including his or her spouse’s or partner’s income. Sunlight, in this instance, goes a long way towards assuring the public that those entrusted with government service are fulfilling their duty to the public.
- Institute Public Financing and Enact Additional Campaign Finance Reforms: Every day, ordinary New Yorkers struggle to make their voices heard in our political system. No matter the issue, candidates are incentivized to focus on large donations over small ones. The only way to truly fix this problem is to institute a public financing system for political campaigns that matches funds from small donations. Governor Cuomo proposes to do just that by instituting a voluntary public financing system that matches small donations with public funds. New York law also continues to allow unlimited contributions to party “housekeeping” accounts by individuals and corporations. These accounts are designed to support non-campaign party activities, but instead provide another mechanism for big donors to impact political campaigns. New York also still allows a campaign’s intermediary, known as a “bundler”, to pass large groupings of individual contributions to a single campaign without disclosing the bundler’s identify. The Governor proposes to address both issues by placing a $25,000 contribution limit on housekeeping accounts and requiring all “bundlers” to disclose their identities.
- Promote Increased Transparency through Comprehensive Reforms to FOIL: The New York Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) governs the public’s right to access government records and provides transparency for citizens into the workings of state government. The Governor proposes a comprehensive reform of FOIL to improve transparency and promote openness in state government, including requiring proactive disclosure of certain records. But transparency cannot just be limited to the Executive—everyone must be held to the same standard. The Governor therefore proposes that FOIL apply equally to the Legislature. Additionally, the Governor proposes that both FOIL and the state’s Open Meetings Law apply to both JCOPE as well as the Legislative Ethics Commission to further ensure transparency, accountability, and increase public confidence in all aspects of state government.
- Expand the Authority of the State Inspector General: The Governor proposes increasing the Inspector General’s jurisdiction to include oversight of nonprofit organizations and foundations that are created for the benefit of, or controlled by SUNY or CUNY. The Inspector General would be authorized to investigate complaints of corruption, fraud, criminal activity, conflicts of interest or abuse within each university and its affiliates, and to refer potential criminal findings within these entities for prosecution. The Governor also proposes broadening the Inspector General’s authority to include all state-related procurement and the implementation and enforcement of financial control policies at SUNY and CUNY. This would allow the Inspector General to oversee the policies of any affiliated nonprofit organization and foundation of each respective university.
- Enact Procurement Reforms: Despite existing legal safeguards, conflicts of interest and unlawful conduct may jeopardize the impartiality and objectivity of the current procurement process. This risk is further heightened by the significant amount of dollars spent by state and local public agencies, which exceeds tens of billions of dollars annually. The Governor therefore proposes creating a Chief Procurement Officer to oversee the integrity and uniformity of procurement practices across the state and ensure state procurement staff are prepared and positioned to conduct effective and ethical procurements. To achieve these ends, the Chief Procurement Officer will spearhead a comprehensive review of current procurement practices across all state entities and relevant affiliates with the intent of establishing best practices and implementing uniform policies and procedures. Additionally, the Governor proposes new measures which would prohibit individuals, organizations or business entities that submit bids, quotes, or responses to state contract offers from making campaign contributions to any officeholder in the branch of government awarding the contract while the decision is pending, and for six months following the contract award. Finally, under current practice, the Office of the State Comptroller, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Office of General Services either undertake reviews and audits or process payments of contract vendors and/or grantees that have multiple projects with the State. However, they lack a single system to track payments and audits of these entities and fail to coordinate their efforts on a routine basis. This should change. The Governor proposes legislation that will direct these entities, along with the Chief Procurement Officer and the Office of Information Technology, to collaborate on a study and make recommendations regarding initiatives to better enable the public to track state contracts and audits.
Building a Stronger, Safer New York
- Establish the Strongest Counter Terrorism Program in the Nation:Governor Cuomo has taken significant action to fight terrorism and keep New Yorkers safe from new and emerging threats. In 2015, he launched the “See Something, Say Something” campaign, making New York the only state with the ability to report unusual behavior via text message. In 2016, the Governor directed the State Office of Counter Terrorism to test more than 600 businesses annually to determine if and how these organizations report suspicious activity. In response to these new and evolving threats, the Governor recently announced a partnership with renowned counter terrorism experts to review the state’s security and issue recommendations for improvement. These recommendations will help New York State establish the strongest counter terrorism program in the nation, allowing the state to be better prepared to meet modern threats posed by terrorism. Further, they will provide recommendations to better protect our bridges, tunnels, trains, buses and airports, as well as our transit hubs at Penn Station and Grand Central Station. In the interim, Governor Cuomo is taking action to restrict terrorists’ capabilities and make it easier for New Yorkers to report suspicious activity. These actions will improve statewide security and strengthen counter terrorism policies, procedures, and tactics. Governor Cuomo will take additional actions to further secure the state, including:
- Expand Vehicle Rental Regulations: Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to require any person attempting to rent a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds to present a valid driver’s license and an additional form of identification to the company in order to obtain the keys. This will ensure that individuals attempting to rent a vehicle are who they say they are and will help prevent any attempted deception to conceal a renter’s identity for malicious purposes.
- Launch a Terrorism Tip Line: Building off the “See Something, Say Something” campaign, New York will work with the Public Service Commission to establish a first of its kind three-digit tip line dedicated to reporting terrorist threats and suspicious activity. This three-digit line will make it easier for New Yorkers to recall the event they witness and encourage further reporting to prevent a potential terrorist act.
- Develop a School Safety Response System to Ensure First Responders Have Real-Time Access to the Blueprints of Every School in New York State: Governor Cuomo has led the charge to protect New Yorkers from gun violence and acts of terror. In the wake of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, the Governor championed the toughest and smartest gun legislation in the nation, and he has pushed to strengthen security measures across the state. This year, for example, the Governor announced a $25 million grant program for critical hardening of infrastructure for non-profits, non-public schools, day care centers, and cultural centers to increase security, and last year, the Governor provided $10 million to local law enforcement agencies for equipment purchases to improve police officer safety and response capabilities. Still, the threat of mass violence and shootings continues to plague the country. In the coming year, the State will explore new technology options for a school safety response system that may include real-time “blue team” GPS tracking and direct lines of communication for all response personnel. The State will also ensure that all schools in New York State are mapped both internally and externally so first responders can enter with greater certainty about where they are going, where threats may exist, and where victims may be hiding. This information will enable them to operate around new and unfamiliar locations with certainty and speed to rapidly save as many lives as possible.
- Expand Vehicle Rental Regulations: Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to require any person attempting to rent a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds to present a valid driver’s license and an additional form of identification to the company in order to obtain the keys. This will ensure that individuals attempting to rent a vehicle are who they say they are and will help prevent any attempted deception to conceal a renter’s identity for malicious purposes.