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Foss: Our governor left many things unsaid

Foss: Our governor left many things unsaid

Address did acknowledge certain hard realities
Foss: Our governor left many things unsaid
Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his State of the State address Wednesday in Albany.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER

Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke for more than 90 minutes when he delivered his State of the State address Wednesday — a period of time that, after a little while, began to feel like forever. 

He seemed to be trying to cover as many bases as possible, hitting hot-button topics such as sexual harassment and the federal tax cuts and expressing concern about problems that are national in scope, such as the opioid epidemic. 

And yet, for all the governor said — and he said a lot, believe me — there was plenty he left unsaid. 

Related State of the State coverage

He touted New York's greatness, its strong economy and position at the "vanguard for social progress," but made no mention of the steady exodus of state residents, a much-remarked upon phenomenon that shows no signs of abating. 

Just this week, United Van Lines released its annual National Movers Study, which found that New York was the third most moved-from state in 2017, behind only Illinois and New Jersey. 

Respondents gave plenty of reasons for moving — jobs, family, retirement — but they all add up to the same thing: A lot of people are leaving New York, presumably because they see opportunity elsewhere. 

It's an issue that deserves real attention from the governor and the Legislature, but there was nary a peep about it during the State of the State. 


Instead, Cuomo opted for an upbeat perspective that, if I didn't know any better, would make me think that upstate New York is in the midst of a population boom, fueled by the state's enormous investment in economic development funding. 

And yet the impact of the state's efforts to stimulate growth and development upstate leaves much to be desired. 

For all the billions in subsidies that have been handed out, upstate job growth has lagged behind both downstate and the rest of the nation. 

According to an article from last March in the Buffalo-based Investigative Post, "If it were a state, upstate's job growth would rank fourth-worst in the nation, below, among others, Mississippi." 

Which isn't good, and might at least partially explain why so many New Yorkers have fled the state. 

Certainly, it's becoming increasingly obvious that the gaming industry is not going to lift upstate New York out of its doldrums any time soon, although this uncomfortable fact, like so many others, went unmentioned by the man who did more than anyone else to paint casinos as a powerful economic development tool. 

The governor's speech wasn't all sunshine and light. 

It did acknowledge certain hard realities, and suggested we can expect to see the state take a far more combative approach to opposing the Trump administration than it has in the past. 

Among other things, Cuomo said he would sue the federal government over the tax reform bill that was just passed

"[The bill] could cause people to leave New York," the governor said, as if people aren't already leaving New York because taxes are high and other states offer a cheaper cost of living. 

In some ways, the Trump administration is a perfect villain for Cuomo — a way to blame the federal government for longstanding problems, such as high property taxes. 

"Property taxes are now toxic to our economy and our stability," the governor said, as if this wasn't already the case. 

As usual, I found some of the governor's proposals interesting and worthy of attention. 

A proposal to eliminate cash bail for people arrested on misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges is both bold and an idea whose time has come. 

A call to address the state's rising homelessness shined a light on a shameful state of affairs. 

A plan for reducing student hunger is full of common-sense ideas that could improve the lives of some of our most vulnerable young people. 

When you hear these kinds of proposals, you get a glimpse of reality — a larger sense of New York as a place where people struggle to make ends meet, where the concerns of the needy and the marginalized are often brushed aside. 

The governor can tell us that the state is on the rise, but the facts on the ground paint a far more complicated picture. 

Yes, some parts of New York are doing very well. 

But others are struggling, and we do them a disservice if we pretend otherwise. 

Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's.

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