Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today he is looking to provide billions of dollars for economic development and infrastructure upgrades in upstate New York.
Cuomo, in his 2016 State of the State address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center, said he is focused on upstate revitalization, road and bridge repairs and more state aid for schools.
Cuomo’s proposed $143.6 billion budget for 2016-17 increases spending by 1.7 percent.
In his address this afternoon, Cuomo announced “a record” $20 billion economic development plan for upstate New York and a proposal to provide $22 billion for roads and bridges.
“Upstate New York must remain an economic priority,” he said. “An upstate growth means a stronger economy for all.”
About $1 billion would be set aside to freeze tolls on the Thruway until 2020, he said. He also noted a proposed $340 million reduction in Thruway tolls for frequent users and farmers.
Cuomo also is looking to kick off a $200 million competition to revitalize upstate airports, such as Schenectady and Saratoga county airports.
He proposed $25 million to expand the state’s anti-poverty program to the 10 cities with the highest poverty rates, including Albany and Troy.
Cuomo also proposed a limit on outside income for state lawmakers as part of new ethics measures “to help restore the public trust.”
In addition, he discussed goals of public financing of elections, closing the LLC loophole, and extending the Freedom of Information Law to the state Legislature.
“These ethics reforms are important, especially considering the context of the last year,” Cuomo said, referring to recent convictions of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.
Cuomo said the budget would increase school aid to “the highest level in history.” He is proposing a $2.1 billion increase over two years, including a nearly $1 billion increase this year.
That would bring total spending for education statewide to $25 billion.
He said the aid boost would help to eliminate the $434 million Gap Elimination Adjustment over a two-year period.
Meanwhile today, Cuomo said he is looking to transform “failing schools” in the state into “community schools” through a $100 million program.
The governor is proposing $6.9 billion for the State University of New York and the City University of New York to strengthen the state’s public education systems.
Cuomo announced a proposal for $20 billion for affordable housing over the next five years, including $10 billion for 100,000 affordable housing units. Comptroller Tom DiNapoli plans to audit shelters statewide, Cuomo said.
In terms of energy, the governor is aiming to make 500,000 homes and 20,000 businesses in the state more energy efficient by 2020 and to install solar on 150,000 new homes and businesses by 2020.
Cuomo proposed raising the Environmental Protection Fund to $300 million, “the highest level in history,” he said. Plus, he plans to eliminate all coal use by 2020.
Also noted in the State of the State was a $300 million small-business tax cut, $750 million through the sixth round of Regional Economic Development Council awards, and $200 million for the Upstate Revitalization Initiative runners-up to fund top projects.
“Property tax is the killer tax in New York,” Cuomo said. “Local governments must be sustainable from a financial point of view … and that’s what we have to work towards.”
Cuomo also introduced a proposal to bring mixed martial arts to the state; New York is the only state in the country that has not legalized the sport. Rotterdam Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, a Democrat, has pushed hard to legalize MMA.
In a unique twist, Assemblyman Charles Barron interrupted Cuomo’s speech for a couple of minutes toward the beginning to say, “You’re wrong!”
Cuomo responded, “Everybody sees you and everybody heard you.”
Reach Gazette reporter Haley Viccaro at 395-3114, [email protected] or @HRViccaro on Twitter.