In his 6th State of the State Address, Governor Cuomo lays out transformative agenda for New York State that builds on 5 years of progress and turns focus to raising the bar on pressing issues and areas of opportunity
Governor’s Executive Budget continues record fiscal discipline while making dramatic investments in infrastructure, affordable housing and homelessness, and education funding
Nation’s most robust paid family leave policy; first-in-the-nation $15 minimum wage; elimination of coal power by 2020; comprehensive ethics package; and commitment to increase breast cancer screening by 10 percent all included in Governor’s 2016 agenda
Today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivered his 2016 State of the State and Executive Budget Address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany. The theme of the Governor’s agenda for the year is “Built to Lead,” in recognition of New York’s heritage as a standard bearer throughout US history, the significant progress achieved in the state over the past five years, and New York’s inherent capacity to lead the nation in addressing some of today’s most pressing challenges.
“In five years we have accomplished much for New York State. Yet with all that we’ve done, we are not immune to the problems vexing our nation. From crumbling infrastructure to climate change to the widening gap between the wealthy and everyone else, we too are faced with significant challenges. I know that New York can conquer these issues, however, because we have done it before,” said Governor Cuomo. “We have proven the capacity to take on the toughest issues of the day, and done what was once dismissed as impossible. Together, we will build an even smarter, stronger and fairer New York than ever before – and we will show the nation the way forward once again.”
The Governor’s full 2016 policy book is available here. Many of his signature proposals for 2016 are described below.
CONTINUING FISCAL DISCIPLINE & GOVERNMENT EFFICIENCY
Keep State Spending Under Two Percent
The Executive Budget will continue the disciplined approach to fiscal matters that has defined the Governor’s first five budgets. For a sixth time, the Budget again limits the annual growth in State Operating Funds spending to 1.7 percent.
$300 Million for Small Business Tax Cut
Small businesses are the backbone of the state’s economy, accounting for 43 percent of all private sector jobs in New York. During the last five years, Governor Cuomo has worked tirelessly to bolster the competitiveness of small businesses by lowering their tax burden. Since taking office in 2011, he has advanced a series of cuts that will save small businesses across the state $3.8 billion by 2021.
To continue growth of the small business sector and help further the expansion of New York’s economy, Governor Cuomo is proposing to cut taxes both for small businesses who pay via the corporate tax and those who pay through personal income taxes. Roughly 1,091,000 small businesses statewide will benefit from this proposal. More information is available here.
Encourage Municipal Consolidation
The Governor has proposed a Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition designed to reward local governments that take real steps to make living and working in New York State more affordable. The competition will challenge counties, cities, towns and villages to develop innovative consolidation action plans yielding significant and permanent property tax reductions. The consolidation partnership that proposes and can implement the greatest permanent reduction in property taxes will receive a $20 million award. More information is available here.
Continuing Successful Investments
Continued fiscal discipline allows New York to invest in proven strategies to diversify and grow regional economies and create stronger communities throughout the state. To build on the success of the Regional Council and Upstate Revitalization Initiatives, the Governor has proposed continuing this regional economic development approach with $950 million in the 2016-17 state budget to support a sixth round of the Regional Council awards and URI runners-up awards. Round VI of the Regional Council initiative will include $750 million to be split competitively among each of the state’s ten regions, and $200 million to fund top projects for the runners up from last year’s URI.
Additionally, the Governor proposes increasing the budget for the I LOVE NY campaign by 10 percent in order to continue growing New York’s significant tourism sector – which was responsible for more than 883,000 jobs and an economic impact of $100 billion in 2015.
Continuing Medicaid Relief for Local Governments
The State has eliminated growth in the local share of Medicaid, saving counties $800 million over five years (FY 2015-2019). For FY 2015 and beyond, the cost of Medicaid to counties subject to the property tax cap will not increase – all growth in the Medicaid program for these counties is being absorbed by the State. The State is also assuming Medicaid administrative responsibilities for counties. This will result in greater efficiencies and help achieve State and Federal health care reform initiatives.
BUILT TO LEAD INFRASTRUCTURE PROGRAM
To remain competitive, promote economic development, and create jobs, New York must continue to rebuild and modernize its roads, bridges, broadband networks, public buildings, and other critical infrastructure across the state. Since taking office, Governor Cuomo has invested over $54 billion in infrastructure projects across New York and reinvented the state’s approach to economic development. Additionally, the Governor has helped jumpstart long-stalled or long-overdue projects, such as the replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge, the redevelopment of LaGuardia and JFK Airports, and the Gateway Tunnel project between New York and New Jersey.
The Governor is continuing that progress this year, with a number of major projects to build, rebuild and revitalize infrastructure across the state. These projects include, but are not limited to, the following proposals:
- Long Island Transportation: Transform and expand vital infrastructure downstate and make critical investments in the downstate region. Most notably, the proposal includes a major expansion and improvement project for the Long Island Rail Road between Floral Park and Hicksville.
- Water Infrastructure: Invest $250 million in support for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects across the state, predominantly in Upstate communities.
- Thruway Authority: Invest $700 million in Thruway infrastructure, on top of last year’s commitment of $1.285 billion. As a result of this investment the Thruway will be able to freeze tolls for all drivers until at least 2020.
- Roads and Bridges: Launch a $22 billion multi-year capital plan to upgrade critical roads, bridges and other vital transportation infrastructure throughout the state, especially in Upstate New York.
- Penn Station: Transform Penn Station and the historic James A. Farley Post Office into a world-class transportation hub, with a projected cost of $3 billion.
- Broadband: Dramatically expand and improve access to high-speed Internet in communities statewide.
- Javits Center: Redevelop the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center to stimulate the regional economy, with a projected cost of $1 billion.
- MTA: Modernize and fundamentally transform the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, dramatically improving the travel experience for millions of New Yorkers and visitors to the metropolitan region.
- Upstate Airports: Launch a $200 million competition to revitalize Upstate airports. The proposal is designed to enhance airports throughout Upstate New York, and promote new opportunities for regional economic development and partnership between the public and private sectors.
From crumbling infrastructure to climate change to the widening gap between the wealthy and everyone else, we too are faced with significant challenges.
SUPPORTING SCHOOLS AND INVESTING IN EDUCATION
Last year, New York State enacted a budget that raised funding for public school districts to $23.5 billion – the highest level in state history. That money supported almost 700 school districts, and 2.8 million students in grades pre-kindergarten through twelve. New York State currently spends more per pupil than any state in the nation, at an average of $19,818, almost double the national average of $10,700.
This year, the Governor proposes to once again significantly increase the State’s investment in public schools. His Executive Budget increases school aid by $2.1 billion over the next two school years, including a $991 million (4.3 percent) increase for the 2016-17 school year. This will bring total aid to $24.2 billion in SY 2017. The Governor’s proposal will provide operating aid increases to every school district in the state, and will once again move State-wide education support to record levels.
Extend NYSUNY 2020 and NYCUNY 2020
In 2011, Governor Cuomo established the NYSUNY 2020 and NYCUNY 2020 program to keep tuition increases low and predictable while providing $470 million in additional resources to New York’s public colleges and universities. NYSUNY 2020 and NYCUNY 2020 fixed an unpredictable tuition rollercoaster that prevented students and their families from being able to plan for the full cost of their education and ended the days of drastic tuition spikes upward of 45 percent. After five years of predictable tuition, New York’s public four-year resident rates remain the lowest in the northeast and in the lowest quartile nationally.
In addition to providing students and their families with predictable tuition increases, since 2011 this program has also provided $470 million in new capital matching grant funding through Empire State Development for the public-private NYSUNY 2020 and NYCUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program that links the higher education system to economic development. The program incentivizes bottom-up, individualized, long-term economic development plans on SUNY and CUNY campuses that include public-private partnerships to benefit the campuses and surrounding communities. Projects must demonstrate measureable impact on both the academic experience of students and lasting economic impact through workforce development and research activities with the potential to lead to commercialization.
To keep tuition low and predictable and infuse additional funds into our SUNY and CUNY systems, the Governor proposes extending the 2011 legislation for an additional five years. Under this rational tuition proposal, SUNY and CUNY will be able to raise tuition up to $300 annually, provided they are able to demonstrate considerable efforts to reduce spending and that any increase is tied to appropriate inflationary indices. Additional revenue generated by any tuition increase would need to be put in a “lockbox” to support faculty, improve instruction and provide tuition credits for TAP-eligible students. A $300 annual tuition increase would raise $89 million annually for SUNY and $51 million for CUNY. This program will continue to provide $110 million in new capital matching grant funding through Empire State Development for the NYSUNY 2020 and NYCUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program and will be coupled with an additional projected increase of $400 million in state funding over the next five years.
End the Gap Elimination Adjustment
Governor Cuomo’s proposed $2.1 billion school aid increase will also allow the State to eliminate the outstanding $434 million Gap Elimination Adjustment over two years, as well as provide an operating increase to every school district in the state. The GEA was first enacted in 2009 in order to combat the drastic world-wide financial recession. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, the State has been diligently working to restore the GEA for every school district affected. The Governor proposes that over the next two years, the GEA will be entirely eliminated once and for all. This two-year plan to eliminate the GEA allows school districts a predictable revenue stream to enhance long-term financial planning and support responsible budget practices.
Establish a $100 Million Community School Fund
The Governor will invest $100 million to support the transformation of failing schools and other high needs schools into community schools so that issues of poverty can be addressed with communities working together to ensure that every student is prepared, safe, healthy and ready to learn. This investment is critical to providing students early opportunities to build positive future and breaking the trend of higher crime rates among underserved youth.
Extend Mayoral Control in New York City
New York City has had mayoral control over its public school system since 2002; the authority is currently set to expire in 2016. Governor Cuomo supports a three-year extension of New York City mayoral control this year. In addition, Governor Cuomo encourages mayors of other cities across the state to examine whether mayoral control of schools would help to support and enhance student achievement.
Expand Pre-Kindergarten for Three Year Olds
There are currently nearly 120,000 students served in the State’s prekindergarten programs, many in full-day spots. The Governor invested an additional $30 million last year to support pre-kindergarten for 3,000 additional three year or four year olds in high-need districts. The Governor proposes an additional $22 million investment in pre-kindergarten for three year olds that will support the provision of early childhood education to an additional 2,000-2,500 three year old students and ensure that these children will have even earlier access to high-quality instruction during the critical brain and language development years, along with opportunities to build confidence and social skills through activity and play And the Governor proposes an additional $2 million investment to ensure pre-k programs are high quality.
Restoring the Trust in Education: The Common Core Task Force
Responding to the confusion and chaos related to past implementation of the Common Core, Governor Cuomo appointed a 15-member Task Force to review state standards, curriculum, and assessments. In December 2015, the Task Force issued a 50-plus page report and 21 recommendations based on feedback received from parents, teachers, students, and other education experts across 12 public engagement sessions, as well as on over 2,000 comments and conversations with stakeholders. After careful review, the Governor accepts all 21 recommendations of the Common Core Task Force report.
The Task Force proposed dramatic reforms including reduced testing, increased parental participation and empowered local districts. These reforms were essential because we saw parents losing faith in the system. Roughly 20% of students opted out of exams and in some districts it was as much as 90%. Simply put, the education system fails without parental trust. To restore the trust we said we would correct the State Education Department’s Common Core curriculum implementation mistakes and testing regimen. Time has shown that this is the right decision and the Governor urges the State Education Department to do it right this time and is fully available to assist in and monitor that effort.
Pass $200 Supplies Credit for Teachers
Governor Cuomo has long supported initiatives designed to attract and retain excellent teachers in New York schools. Teachers work hard and support their students, and the State should encourage and support these teachers. In order to give back to teachers who purchase instructional materials or other supplies for their classrooms, the Governor proposes $10 million in tax credits to reimburse teachers up to $200 for their purchases of classroom materials and supplies.
ENSURING A CLEANER, GREENER NEW YORK
Facilitate a Coal Free New York By 2020
Coal is one of the highest greenhouse gas emitting and environmentally harmful fuel sources for power generation. While coal supplied the bulk of our energy needs up until the 1950s, the nation now enjoys access to cleaner, greener and more sustainable energy resources for power production. In fact, today, New York State has only three active coal fired power plants that produce less than 4 percent of the state’s energy load and one plant is scheduled for closure in 2016.
To achieve the state’s goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector 40 percent by 2030 the Governor seeks to close or repower the three remaining coal burning power plants to cleaner fuel sources by 2020. To accomplish this goal, the Governor will direct the Department of Public Service and the DEC to work with the New York Independent System Operator to develop a regulatory framework that will ensure system reliability while facilitating repowering to cleaner fuel or closure no later than 2020.
To minimize economic impact on communities and workers the Governor will draw upon the state’s $19 million mitigation fund to help offset financial losses associated with the retirement of aging or obsolete power plants. Governor Cuomo is committed to working with plant owners and host communities to achieve his objective in a manner that will preserve jobs or retrain current employees for new jobs in New York’s clean energy economy and provide tax revenue stabilization assistance to local governments and school districts.
Allocate $300 Million to the Environment Protection Fund
The Governor announced that New York State will allocate $300 million for the state’s Environmental Protection Fund – the highest amount ever for the fund and more than double the fund’s level when the Governor first took office. This increase will provide record funding for urgent environmental investments, adding resources for land acquisition, farmland protection, invasive species prevention and eradication, waterfront revitalization, and an aggressive environmental justice agenda. More information is available here.
These proposals further New York State’s legacy as an environmental leader and build on the Governor’s previous accomplishments – including his efforts to both reduce state greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and guarantee that 50 percent of all electricity consumed in New York by 2030 result from clean and renewable energy sources.
BOLSTERING PUBLIC SAFETY
Allocate $40 Million to Establish Permanent Law Enforcement Presence Statewide to Combat Terrorism
To respond to the need for increased protection of its citizens in the wake of heightened terrorist threats, the Governor initiated a counter terrorism surge in the New York City metro area in 2014 that provided an increased State Police, MTA Police, and National Guard presence. The State also launched the “See Something, Send Something” mobile application in 2015 that allows New Yorkers to report suspicious activity.
To protect against the increased threat to transit hubs and critical infrastructure, the State will establish a permanent State Police presence in New York City. These specially-trained, uniformed State Troopers will partner with dozens of investigators to strengthen the law enforcement presence in and around New York City. Moreover, the Governor has called for a total investment of $40 million, which will expand law enforcement presence to protect critical infrastructure throughout the State.
Provide Enhanced Training and Equipment to State Troopers
Recent terror attacks have revealed a trend towards coordinated strikes using military-style assault weapons, as well as home-grown extremists committing lone-wolf attacks. These attacks are easier to carry out on American soil and can occur anywhere within New York State. This new normal of terrorism requires an expanded approach to the State’s counter terrorism efforts.
Therefore the Governor will also invest $4 million to prepare New York State Troopers to respond to this emerging threat, both in New York City and throughout the State. This investment will provide high-powered rifles, body armor and ballistic helmets to all on-duty uniformed troopers, along with the necessary training to prepare them to respond to this evolving threat of terrorism.
Consolidate the Office of Counter Terrorism with the State Police
In 2015, the Governor announced that former New York City Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly would conduct an in depth assessment of the State’s existing counter terrorism preparedness and prevention efforts. Commissioner Kelly has proposed a preliminary recommendation for the state to consolidate the operational components of the Office of Counter Terrorism in DHSES within the New York State Police’s Office of Counter Terrorism which the Governor has accepted. This shift will increase the efficiency of the State’s counter terrorism functions by consolidating all intelligence and analysis resources within the New York State Intelligence Center, under the singular command of the New York State Police. The enhanced unit will monitor all known threats and identify emerging targets using the latest technology and techniques. This effort will continue to support federal, state, local, tribal and private sector efforts to prevent, protect against and prepare for acts and threats of terrorism.
Close the Terror Gap
Today, states cannot use the federal government’s Terror Watch List to determine who may be licensed to own or permitted to buy a firearm and Washington D.C. can’t agree on the use of intelligence information concerning terrorists in gun background checks. The Governor calls upon the federal government to officially add the U.S. Terror Watch List to the criteria it uses for federal background checks in New York State. This would prevent known or suspected terrorists from legally purchasing guns and would cross-check the terror watch list with a National Instant Criminal Background Check System request, effectively closing the terror gap within the state and barring individuals on federal terror watch lists from legally arming themselves.
Together, we will build an even smarter, stronger and fairer New York than ever before – and we will show the nation the way forward once again.
LEADING THE NATION IN SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC PROGRESS
Allocate More Than $20 Billion for Massive Expansion of Housing and Homelessness Plan
Despite significant achievements in affordable housing preservation and construction over the past five years – with achievements that include the state’s largest ever commitment to affordable housing through the $1 billion House NY initiative and the creation of the Tenant Protection Unit, which has returned more than 50,000 housing units to rent regulation – New York has not been immune to rising housing costs across the state and must take steps to deliver more affordable housing to those who need it.
To meet this challenge, the Governor is proposing to invest $20 billion over five years for two historic proposals – a $10 billion House NY 2020 Plan for affordable housing, and a $10 billion Homelessness Action Plan.
Governor Cuomo is proposing to create and preserve 100,000 affordable housing units across the state through the House NY 2020. This proposal – which boosts state spending on housing programs by nearly $5 billion – will build and preserve affordable units and individual homes; make homeownership affordable for first-time buyers; increase investments in the revitalization of our communities; promote housing choice opportunities for all New Yorkers; revamp services in ways that better serve clients including New Yorkers seeking affordable housing; and directly support permanent housing programs for those struggling with homelessness.
Additionally, Governor Cuomo is proposing an historic, $10.4 billion commitment to combat homelessness. This funding will support the creation of 6,000 new supportive housing beds, 1,000 emergency beds, and a variety of expanded homelessness services over the next five years. Over 15 years, the State will add 20,000 new units that will build upon 44,000 existing supportive housing units that the state already funds. This investment marks the largest commitment to addressing homelessness in New York State history.
The Governor is also proposing dramatic measures to improve the conditions of homeless shelters and restore the public’s trust in the homeless shelter system. Since April 1, 2015, state inspectors have identified 2,508 health and safety violations at shelters across the state. As part of the Governor’s proposal, the state will partner with Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to audit shelters statewide, as well as New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Buffalo Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder to review and inspect shelters in New York City and Buffalo, respectively.
Shelters determined to be unsafe or dangerous will either immediately add local police protection or be closed. If a shelter is determined to be unsanitary or otherwise unfit it will be subject to contract cancellation, operator replacement or closure because there are many qualified nonprofits that are capable of running a good shelter operation. If an operator’s management problem is systemic, a receiver will be appointed to run the system. In addition, the state will require all social service districts to comply with the laws and regulations of New York State or be subject to sanctions.
Allocate $25 Million for the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative
This $25 million program will bring together state and local government, non-profit and business groups to design and implement coordinated solutions to increase economic mobility in ten communities across upstate New York. Under the program, New York will provide $500,000 in planning and implementation grants to each community, along with access to a $20 million grant pool to match private sector and foundation funding. The cities selected for the program were chosen based on concentration of poverty within the municipality. They include Syracuse, Binghamton, Oneonta, Buffalo, Utica, Elmira, Jamestown, Oswego, Troy and Albany.
Raise the Minimum Wage
Governor Cuomo has proposed making New York the first state in the nation to enact a $15 minimum wage for all workers. Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour for all industries directly benefits 2.3 million workers in New York State, about a quarter of the total workforce.
Previously, as a result of the Governor’s efforts, New York has begun moving toward a $15 minimum wage for fast food employees, public sector workers, and SUNY employees – in total amounting to roughly a quarter of a million workers in New York State. More information is available here.
Provide Paid Family Leave for New York Workers
Federal law currently provides only for unpaid family leave, and creates a dilemma for those caught between the need to care for a sick relative or newborn and the pressure to return to work and earn money. Moreover, federal unpaid family leave only covers approximately 60 percent of all workers.
To help workers care for their families while protecting their earnings and job security, the Governor proposes a new paid family leave program for New York workers. New York State’s Paid Family Leave Program will provide twelve weeks of job-protected, employee-funded leave to be used for bonding with a new child or caring for a sick relative.
Statewide paid family leave will particularly benefit low-income workers who often lack benefits or job security, and for whom access to any leave, even unpaid, is often not available or cost prohibitive. Paid family leave also has the potential to serve as a great equalizer for women. This is so because in many instances, women who leave the workforce to care for a newborn not only forfeit their existing salaries in the short-term, but also suffer diminished future earnings and career trajectories in the long term. Establishing paid family leave marks a pivotal next step in the pursuit of equality and dignity in both the workplace and the home.
Increase Opportunity for MWBEs
In 2014, Governor Cuomo established a goal of 30 percent for New York’s MWBE state contract utilization – the highest goal of any state in the nation. However, under state law, that goal only applies to contracts issued by state agencies and authorities; it does not apply to state funding given to localities such as cities, counties, towns, villages and school districts, which amounts to approximately $65 billion annually. This year, the Governor will advance legislation addressing this disconnect by expanding the MWBE goal setting to localities and entities that subcontract with those localities. Doing so will leverage the largest pool of state funding in history to combat systemic discrimination and create new opportunities for MWBE participation.
Continue to Lead on Criminal Justice and Re-Entry
The Governor has proposed a comprehensive “Right Priorities” initiative to continue New York’s legacy as a leader on criminal justice and re-entry reform. Including the aforementioned $100 million investment in community schools, the Governor’s proposal calls for (a) a $55 million investment in the Urban Youth Jobs Program and related workforce training, (b) expanding and modernizing the use of alternatives to incarceration, (c) reducing criminal behavior through educational programming in prisons, (d) improving the use of transitional supports during the first six months after an individual’s release, (e) re-introducing legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility, and (f) restricting access to criminal records for pardoned individuals. More information on this initiative is available here.
Establish the Office of an Independent Special Counsel
In 2015 the Governor signed Executive Order 147 which appointed the Attorney General as a special prosecutor in matters relating to the deaths of unarmed civilians caused by law enforcement officers. This Executive Order was an important step in restoring public confidence in the existence of an objective and transparent review of these tragic occurrences. However, this is a temporary solution and more needs to be done.
The Governor will propose the creation of an Office of an Independent Special Counsel. This Office will be independent of any existing relationship with law enforcement, thereby avoiding any appearance of favoritism or partiality. With an Independent Special Counsel appointed, these tragic occurrences will continue to receive a fair and independent review that they deserve, while also increasing the public’s understanding and faith in the process.
Protect Immigrant Crime Victims through Increased Access to U-Visas
Undocumented persons are at higher risk of exploitation at work and are often reluctant to report violations or otherwise cooperate with law enforcement out of fear of deportation. Currently, there are approximately 900,000 undocumented individuals living in New York State, including 522,000 undocumented workers. New York State laws protect all workers, regardless of immigration status, against workplace discrimination, wage theft, misclassification, retaliation, human trafficking, and other labor standards violations.
In 2002, Congress created the U Nonimmigrant Visa (U Visa) to protect workers who assist with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of a crime by providing them with temporary lawful status. The U Visa is an important tool both for protecting immigrant crime victims and for strengthening the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute crimes. U Visa holders are eligible for lawful status for up to four years and can receive an automatic grant of work authorization. Holders are also eligible to adjust status to lawful permanent resident after three years. Additionally, immediate qualifying family members may receive derivative visas.
Governor Cuomo recognizes that a U Visa is a particularly powerful tool for agencies tasked with enforcing laws that protect vulnerable undocumented New Yorkers. In the spring of 2011, he directed the New York State Department of Labor to certify U Visas in agency investigations for claimants and witnesses who met certain criteria and demonstrated that they had been victims of qualifying crimes.217 To help detect and prosecute crimes, the Governor will direct the New York State Police and the Division of Human Rights to establish official protocols and begin receiving and processing U Visa certifications for claimants, victims, and witnesses. Additionally, the Governor will direct the Office of Children and Family Services, through its oversight of local departments of social services, to advise districts of their responsibility as the investigating entities, to certify U Visas, as provided for in law.
“We have proven the capacity to take on the toughest issues of the day, and done what was once dismissed as impossible.
PROTECTING THE PUBLIC HEALTH
Certify New York State Foods
New York’s vibrant agriculture and food industries position the state to set a national example for providing consumers with transparent and meaningful information about the food they purchase and eat. In 2015, the Governor created an Advisory Committee on Safe and Healthy Foods to convene the nation’s top experts in food production and food advocacy to examine food safety and misbranding issues and to identify ways for consumers to determine which of New York’s food is the best available.
The Governor will build on this work to launch the New York State Certified High Quality Initiative – a comprehensive plan to restore consumer confidence in New York products, ensure that products are accurately labeled, and identify New York producers who adhere to best practices in food handling and environmental stewardship.
The New York State Certified High Quality initiative comprises five elements:
1. Branding & Marketing: A New York State Certified seal will be made available to producer s who maintain a certified Good Agricultural Practices plan and demonstrate good environmental stewardship. Building on the success of the Taste NY program, New York will launch a full-scale advertising campaign to inform consumers that they can trust foods that bear this seal.
2. Enforcement: The state will increase its ability to enforce laws against misbranding and deceptive business practices. This will protect not only consumers, but the integrity of the vast majority of honest producers as well.
3. Monitoring: Inspectors from the Department of Agriculture & Markets will conduct improved, risk-based food safety on-site inspections and will increase the number of food samples to test. Further, the Department of Health Wadsworth Center Lab and the State Food Lab will enhance their partnership to monitor and protect the health of New Yorkers, through increased laboratory collaboration and enhanced testing of foods for sale in New York State.
4. Training & Industry Support: The state will invest more than $4 million to train farmers in safe food handling practices and environmental stewardship through the Agricultural Environmental Management Program and the Integrated Pest Management Program. The state will also leverage the Taste NY and Farm-to-School initiatives to promote consumer interest in local, New York State Certified products.
5. Investment: The state will work with the Regional Economic Development Councils to invest in local food distribution hubs that will improve access to fresh and healthy food for residents and promote local products to restaurants and institutional buyers. New York will also invest in farms that opt to convert to organic grain production.
Increase Awareness and Screening for Breast and Prostate Cancer
Governor Cuomo will launch a $91 million comprehensive, statewide plan to increase rates of breast cancer screening, help women access the treatment they need, and educate thousands of men about the risks associated with prostate cancer. The State will increase women’s access to screening facilities and services across the state, and also work to ensure women receive any necessary assistance in scheduling and keeping their mammography appointments. Additionally, peer outreach efforts will be enhanced to help more women understand the importance of regular breast cancer screening and to inform men of their risks regarding prostate cancer.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in New York. It is also the second leading cause of cancer-related death in New York women – responsible for almost 15,000 diagnoses and 2,700 deaths each year.
A top priority in the fight against breast cancer is to achieve earlier detection by getting more women screened, because it can reduce mortality and increase the likelihood of identifying cancer at an early age, when treatment is most successful. In 2014, about 78.6 percent of age-appropriate women in New York State reported receiving a mammogram at least every other year, while approximately 576,000 women had not.
The Governor is committed to increasing the state’s breast cancer screening rate by 10 percent over the next five years. As a result of the Governor’s initiative, more than 212,000 additional women will be screened for breast cancer by December 2020.
Excluding skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in New York State – each year, over 15,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and over 1,700 men die of the disease. As a result of the Governor’s initiative, 25,000 men will receive peer education and outreach services that will encourage them to discuss their risk for prostate cancer with their health care providers in order to make an informed decision about whether to be screened.
Launch a $15 Million Public-Private Outreach and Education Campaign for Cancer
To encourage more women to get screened for breast cancer and men to be informed of prostate cancer risks, the State will implement a two-pronged public awareness campaignthat focuses on underserved communities.
The state will partner with the Healthcare Education Project to raise breast cancer awareness through a media campaign that will target low income, underserved populations and encourage them to get screened. The campaign will address commonly cited patient barriers, including fear of the test, and women not knowing they should be screened. In conjunction with this campaign, the Department of Health will establish a website containing a breast cancer hotline and additional means of connecting women with the component programs in the Governor’s breast cancer initiative. The State will complement these efforts with a $5 million education and public awareness media campaign across the state over the next five years.
Additionally, to encourage more women to get mammograms, and men to discuss their risks for prostate cancer with their health care providers, the State will fund 10 community-based peer education programs throughout the State.
Increase Access to Breast Cancer Screening
To increase women’s access to mammography services, the Department of Health will require hospital-based screening facilities that already offer mammograms to offer service hours at least once a week during the early morning, evening or weekend. This action will assist women who have difficulty scheduling their mammograms during the typical 9am-5pm work day.
To provide access to mammography services to women who may have difficulty getting to a fixed location for an appointment, the State will invest $59.5 million to help community providers purchase and operate mobile mammography vehicles. Mobile mammography services will be targeted in areas with a high number of unscreened women per FDA-approved mammography facility and will provide convenient, high-quality screening services.
Many women make a mammography appointment and fail to arrive or get screened and do not follow up for further consultation or treatment. To address this issue and provide coordinated care to women across New York, the State will invest $11.6 million to hire additional health care workers at cancer treatment and other health care facilities to identify and conduct outreach to patients due for breast cancer screening, address barriers to facilitate screening completion such as transportation, and assist with securing any subsequent needed diagnostic follow-up and treatment services.
Supporting Cancer Research
Developing viable digital health and cancer screening technologies can be costly. Equally challenging for businesses are the high costs of bringing cancer treatments to the market. To assist with these hurdles, the state will invest $5 million from the New York State Innovation Venture Capital Fund to support the commercialization of promising cancer-related technologies. Funding could support products that help increase the number of women screened for breast cancer, in addition to innovations that improve the diagnosis or treatment of breast and prostate cancer.
Up to ten companies will receive state investments of $500,000 to $1 million to support research that has entered the early stages of the commercialization process. To support New York Ventures in identifying and evaluating investment opportunities, the state will establish an Advisory Board consisting of top oncologists, researchers and bioscience investors. This investment initiative will increase the opportunity for more businesses to commercialize their early innovations in cancer research.
STANDING UP FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY, ETHICS, AND GOVERNMENT REFORM
Close the LLC Loophole and Increase Campaign Disclosure
In order to preserve open, free and fair elections, Governor Cuomo is proposing to close the LLC loophole, which allows wealthy individuals and corporations to use Limited Liability Companies to avoid New York’s campaign donation limits. Additionally, to provide greater transparency in campaign contributions, the Governor proposes that candidates disclose campaign contributions to the Board of Elections every 60 days, instead of the current twice yearly requirement.
Limit Outside Income for Legislators
The Legislature’s part-time structure allows professionals from diverse industries and backgrounds to serve the public. This offers the distinct advantage of legislators who are not career politicians but, instead, have a diverse set of interests and experiences. To strike the right balance, the Governor proposes that New York State adopt limits on outside income for legislators akin to the limits our federal government places on legislators’ outside income. The proposal will limit State legislators’ outside income to 15 percent of their base salary.
Adopt a Voluntary Public Campaign Financing System
Current election laws favor wealthy donors and special interests. Simply put, there is no incentive for candidates to rely on ordinary, everyday people for campaign donations. In the 2006 elections, for example, candidates in New York relied less on small donors ($1- $250) than in all but three other states nationwide. The only comprehensive way to fix this problem and restore the voices of all New Yorkers is to adopt a voluntary public financing system for political campaigns that focuses on matching funds from small donors. To accomplish this goal, the Governor proposes a voluntary public campaign financing system.
Enact Other Campaign Finance Reforms
Unlike federal law, New York allows unlimited contributions to party “housekeeping” accounts by individuals and corporations. These accounts are supposed to be used for non-campaign party activities, but they serve as a backdoor for big money to influence political races. Our current system also allows intermediaries of campaign contributors, known as “bundlers,” to pass large groupings of individual contributions to campaigns and gain political influence without disclosing their identities. The Governor proposes to fix both issues by placing a $25,000 contribution limit on housekeeping accounts and requiring bundlers’ identities to be disclosed.
Promote Transparency through New Reforms to FOIL
The New York Freedom of Information Law 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. But transparency cannot just be limited to the Executive, and therefore the Governor proposes that FOIL apply equally to the Legislature. Additionally, the Governor proposes that FOIL apply to both JCOPE as well as the Legislative Ethics Commission to further ensure transparency and accountability and enhance public confidence in our government.
Require Legislators Convicted of Corruption to Forfeit Pensions
Public servants who are convicted of corruption should not continue to collect a pension earned during public service. Legislators who violate their duty to the people of New York should not continue to be paid by the people of New York in any way. The Governor proposes the adoption of a joint resolution that will require pension forfeiture after a legislator is convicted of a crime related to their public office, regardless of when that legislator was elected to office.
Increase JCOPE Transparency and Enforcement and Strengthen Ethical Requirements for Lobbyists
The JCOPE Review Commission issued a report in 2015 that detailed multiple changes to enable JCOPE to do its job better. In response, the Governor proposes a package of much-needed changes to JCOPE to increase transparency and enhance its enforcement powers. All public officers are required to file Financial Disclosure Statements, but good government groups and the public alike have called for strengthening these disclosure requirements.
Governor Cuomo therefore proposes legislation that would authorize JCOPE staff to seek documents in support of statements made on the FDS, increase enforcement authority against public officers who fail to comply with JCOPE audits, and create District Attorney oversight over those who willfully submit deceptive financial information on the FDS. This legislation would also eliminate the categories of value on the FDS to require public officers to report actual amounts. Finally, this legislation would impose financial penalties for all violations of the Public Officers Code of Conduct contained in Section 74 of the Public Officers Law, and would create “accessory liability” to allow JCOPE to fully prosecute persons who aid and abet violations of the Public Officers Law.
Convene a Constitutional Commission
The New York Constitution provides that, every 20 years, New Yorkers must vote by referendum on whether to hold a convention to amend the State constitution. The next referendum will take place in 2017, and Governor Cuomo believes a constitutional convention offers voters the opportunity to achieve lasting reform in Albany. The Governor will invest $1 million to create an expert, non-partisan commission to develop a blueprint for a convention. The commission will also be authorized to recommend fixes to the current convention delegate selection process, which experts agree is flawed.
Early Voting in 139 Locations
New York has 19.8 million residents, yet only 11.7 million New Yorkers are registered to vote. In the last non-presidential election year, only 29 percent of registered voters participated – less than one in three. In the last presidential election, only 53.6 percent of registered voters participated.
Currently, New Yorkers can vote early via absentee ballot, but only if they meets certain qualifications such as being absent from his or her county on Election Day or being unable to get to the polls due to a disability. For many working New Yorkers, it can be difficult to get to the polls on Election Day.
To increase voter participation, Governor Cuomo proposes legislation that will allow New Yorkers to vote early in all elections. This legislation will require every county to offer residents access to at least one early voting polling place that will allow residents to vote for 12 days leading up to Election Day. Voters will have at least eight hours on weekdays and five hours on weekends to cast early ballots. Counties must have one early voting polling site for every 50,000 residents and the bipartisan county boards of elections will determine the specific location of early voting polling places, subject to standards of convenience and accessibility. Early voting will increase participation and make our elections more inclusive and democratic.
Automatic Voter Registration
Governor Cuomo is committed to modernizing the voter registration system. This year, the Governor will make New York the third state in the nation to adopt automatic voter registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Citizens can already register to vote at the DMV, but the current process is unnecessarily onerous, requiring a potential voter to include additional voting information in their application for a DMV service. Under the new system, unless a DMV user opts out, the information used in any DMV application will be automatically sent to county boards of elections to register the applicant or update registration information. New Yorkers who do not wish to register to vote can simply check an “opt out” box. This change will help maintain accurate voter rolls and facilitate New Yorkers’ participation in elections.
Embrace Good Government and Transparency
Governor Cuomo proposes legislation that will allow concerned taxpayers from across the State to access more information about where and how money flows from the state to private citizens. The Office of the State Comptroller and the Attorney General already have various powers to undertake audits and investigations regarding the use of State funds. However, under current practice, these two offices do not coordinate when they are auditing state vendor contracts with private businesses. The Governor’s legislation would direct the Attorney General, the Office of the State Comptroller, the Office of Information Technology Services, and the Office of General Services to conduct a study and make recommendations regarding initiatives that would better enable the public to track state contracts.
Reform Lobbying Laws
Our lobbying laws must be strengthened to close existing loopholes and enhance enforcement. This legislation will require political consultants who advise state or local elected officials to register as lobbyists, and will repeal the exclusion for activities of commission salespersons from the definition of “lobbying.” Further, the Governor proposes legislation that will impose a $10,000 penalty on a lobbyist who fails to comply with an audit by JCOPE, impose financial penalties for already-illegal “contingent fee agreements” for lobbyists, and require mandatory electronic filing so that all lobbyists would also be subject to federal wire fraud charges for misstatements.