ALBANY, N.Y. – Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered his 2015 State of the State address Wednesday in Albany, covering a number of topics including unemployment, minimum wage, and education.
Over the past few weeks, the governor has unveiled parts of his agenda, already releasing 12 parts of his plan. On Wednesday, more will be announced on how the governor plans to fund these programs.
The event kicked off shortly after 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, and a moment of silence was held in memory of former Governor Mario Cuomo, who passed away on January 1, 2015. The current governor thanked the New York Senate and Assembly for allowing a delay of the State of the State address, which was held at a later date than planned due to the elder Cuomo’s death. This is why Cuomo decided to hold a joint State of the State and Budget address, instead of the usual protocol of holding separate events for each.
He also injected a little bit of humor into his speech, comparing the last four years:
The governor then moved on to speak about downstate infrastructure before moving on to the issue of broadband access for all New Yorkers.
Education reform is expected to be a major focus of the address, with 300 New York students in attendance.Governor Cuomo addressed community college in New York. He stated that community colleges train students for jobs that no longer exist, and leave them drowning in student debt.
He then moved on to Upstate New York, saying it was in a state of economic decline just four years ago. He says the downward cycle has been reversed and that the days of “when downstate flourishes and upstate suffers” are over. He announced plans to invest in the NY State Fair, and expand Fort Drum.
Tourism was addressed, with the governor stating that over $100 million had been spent on tourism over the past four years. Visitor spending is up from $8 billion to $62 billion — 8 percent higher than the national rate of growth.
Cuomo moved on to address poverty rates in the state — stating that two of the poorest communities are Rochester and the Bronx.
Minimum wage is also one of the main topics the governor has been focusing on. Last week the Governor Cuomo reiterated his support for raising the states minimum wage to $10.50 an hour across the state, $11.50 in New York City.
“Because if you work full time, you should be able to afford food, rent and a path out of poverty,” he said.
On education, Cuomo proposed that the state would pay full tuition to SUNY and CUNY for the top graduate program candidates who commit to teaching in New York for at least 5 years.
He announced that although all schools have evaluation programs, they’re “baloney.” He said that while only 38.1 percent of high school students are college-ready, 98.7 percent of high school teachers are rated effective according to evaluations.
He proposed changing evaluations, saying the state would pay a $20,000 bonus to teachers who are legitimately rated “highly effective.”
The governor said that under the current 3020A system, it is so hard to remove an ineffective teacher, that many districts do not even try. He says the state will follow the State Education Department’s recommendation to reform the process and make it easier, fairer and faster to remove ineffective teachers from the classroom.
“Over the last ten years, 250,000 children went through failing schools while new York State Government did nothing,” said the governor.
But while many believe that additional funding will help schools, Cuomo disagreed. He said that money without reform only grows the bureaucracy — it does not improve performance. He addressed the state aid to schools per pupil average, which he says supports his argument.
- State Average: $8,114
- State Average in high Need Districts: $12,634
- Failing Distict (Buffalo): $16,170
Cuomo also announced a justice agenda, saying, “the more a police force looks likes the community they are serving, the better job they will do.”
He again urged passing of the Women’s Equality Agenda, stating that 1 out of 4 women will be sexually assaulted while in college.
The NYS budget was also addressed. The below graphic displaying newly proposed initiatives and investments that are all accounted for in the current state budget.
Governor Cuomo then addressed a total of $5.4 billion in settlement funds, and proposed how they would be distributed:
Protesters gathered at the plaza early Wednesday morning, many chanting “black lives matter.” Troopers arrested 22 and charged with disorderly conduct after they “sat down and locked arms in front of the entrance to the Albany Convention Center hallway on the Concourse and after refusing a lawful order to cease doing so.” They were part of a crowd of about 100 protesters.