Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled an ambitious agenda for the upcoming legislative session, with a heavy focus on progressive policies aimed at ending sexual harassment and abuse, reforming the justice system and protecting the environment as well as creating jobs, improving infrastructure and expanding tourism.
In his eighth State of the State Address since taking office in 2011, Cuomo blasted the Trump Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress for its tax overhaul that many believe punishes New York residents.
“This is literally going to define the future of New York state,” Cuomo said of the Republican tax plan that reduces the amount of state and local tax payments that can be deducted on federal income tax filings. “[The federal government] has shot an arrow aimed at New York’s economic heart. They are aiming to hurt us.”
Cuomo said the state is prepared to challenge the new tax plan in court and noted that new York is the largest “donor state” to the federal government, providing $48 billion a year in tax revenue more than it receives.
“They changed the old adage robbing Peter to pay Paul — they are now robbing the blue states to pay for the red states. It is crass, ugly, divisive, partisan legislating,” the governor said. “It is an economic Civil War. We must take dramatic action to save ourselves and preserve our state’s economy.”
Cuomo said one of his top priorities this session is to look at ways to reduce local property taxes and restructuring the state tax code to help offset the higher federal taxes many New Yorkers will be paying next year.
“The federal government is not going to derail the great state of New York,” said the governor.
Cuomo, who will be running for a third term this November, laid out more than two dozen goals during his speech Wednesday at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center before a packed house of legislators, statewide officials, special guests and members of the public who were picked by lottery to attend the annual speech.
After months of sexual harassment claims against men in the news media, entertainment and government, this year’s State of the State was clearly aimed at championing the rights of women in the workplace and at home.
“Let New York state stand and say we are not the state of denial,” Cuomo said. “We acknowledge the longstanding bias and abuse against women, and New York says it stops, it stops here, and it stops now.”
One of the governor’s top agenda items this session is a new law that would require companies doing business with the state disclose all of their sexual harassment adjudications and nondisclosure agreements. Another legislative goal is to prevent public funds from being used to settle sexual harassment claims.
“If it’s the bad act of an individual, let the individual pay,” the governor said.
He also hopes to pass a uniform code of sexual harassment rules for all public employees and make it easier for whistleblowers to report cases of abuse.
“We need to turn revulsion into reform,” Cuomo said to loud and extended applause.
Rounding out his Women’s Agenda is a permanent codification of a woman’s right to an abortion as outlined in Roe v. Wade and moving the statute from Penal Law to Health Law.
The governor’s 2018 legislative agenda also has a strong environmental focus in addition to a number of specific economic development projects and programs designed to assist tipped workers, college students and nonviolent criminals.
His specific goals include:
• Removing all firearms from those who commit domestic violence crimes;
• Outlawing “sextortion” and non-consensual pornography, often known as “revenge porn;”
• Ending a railroad company’s recent practice of storing old rail cars in the Adirondacks;
• Divesting the New York State Common Retirement Fund from significant fossil fuel investments;
• Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and growing the clean energy economy;
• Combating algal blooms that threaten drinking water, recreation and tourism;
• Tighter regulations for political advertising, especially on social media;
• Requiring counties to offer early voting and making it easier for citizens to register to vote statewide;
• Studying the possibility of raising wages for tipped workers;
• Creating new workforce development programs;
• Installing a student loan ombudsman to serve as an advocate for borrowers and require colleges to provide simple truth in lending facts for students;
• Implementing new after-school programs on Long Island to stop street gangs from recruiting young people;
• Eliminating monetary bail for people facing misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges;
• Expanding the discovery process to aid defense attorneys and their clients;
• Building a new arena for the New York Islanders at Belmont Park; and
• Renovating and rebranding Stewart Airport in the Hudson Valley.
“This is the most challenging agenda I have ever put forth, but these are trying times,” Cuomo said. “Good government is about action. We will make the seemingly impossible possible.”
The governor’s complete legislative agenda can be found here.