Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered his sixth and final 2017 regional State of the State address in Albany on Wednesday afternoon. Below is a video of the address and a transcript of his speech.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you, you’re going to make me blush. Please, please. Thank you. What a pleasure to be back in Albany. What a pleasure to be here. What a pleasure to be with Chancellor Zimpher. And let me say this: there are different types of leaders who take over institutions and some leaders are very good at keeping the institution running and moving and there are some leaders who come in with a vision and a drive and not just keep the institution moving, but they actually are transformative forces. What Chancellor Zimpher has done has been to advance by leaps and bounds the academics of the SUNY system; the service that we give our students. And she also, I believe, brought SUNY to the next level. Which is making the marriage between academics and economics because that is the future, where the educational institutions are actually birthing the economics for the next generation. And SUNY is well on its way because of Chancellor Zimpher. Let’s give her a big round of applause.
This is the State of the State address. Now, for those of you who are not students of state history, State of the State is like the President will do a State of the Union address soon, Mayors do State of the City. It is an address where the chief executive officer gives a vision for the coming year. Under the state constitution, it was originally intended to be a written document presented to the legislature, which nobody then read. The Governor Al Smith had been a former Speaker of the Assembly, so when Governor Al Smith became Governor, he said I want to do the State of the State as a speech in the Assembly Chamber, which is the chamber that he had presided over. So he started to give a speech annually at the State of the State in the Assembly Chamber. Senate came into the Assembly Chamber and then they spoke in that chamber. That went on for a while. I became Governor, I wanted to get out of the Capitol and get out of the Chamber because I wanted to break the model that I’m there just talking to politicians. It’s about talking to people now. This is not a government from 100 years ago. So we went to the convention center. And the convention center could hold, whatever it was, 2,000 people. We would then talk to 2,000 people.
This year, I said, we’re going to do even one better. I said, rather than do one address with 2,000 people, since so much of what we do in this state is actually regionally oriented, let’s do a State of the State in every region of the state. Because we talk about one state, and we are one state for many reasons, but we are also the North Country, and the Southern Tier, and Long Island, and these are all different places and we have different strategies. So this is my last State of the State. It has been 10 days. I’ve done eight presentations, 6,500 attendees, I’ve spoken for nine hours, traveled 1,300 miles, made 35 announcements, spoke to 300 projects, and did 1000 PowerPoint slides. So. I am ready for this presentation, I want you to know. This will be the written submission state of the state that will go to the legislators. It is 380 pages. I’m sure it’s going to be nice weekend reading for the legislators, then we’ll speak it through. But what is the State of the State – what is the answer to the question what is the State of the State as the essential bottom line? The ship of state is doing better than it has in many, many decades. And is stronger than it’s been in decades. The economic and social progress is up all across the board. You would have to go back to the history books and find a time since FDR and Robert Moses where the government actually produced more, or achieved more, or passed more meaningful legislation or built more things for people than this government has done. We have actually done a lot of good work over the past six years. State government, executive, legislative, local government, all working together. The simplest barometer to point to is how is the economy doing? How are we doing in producing jobs? We’ve gone from 8.4 percent unemployment down to 5.1 percent today. And that is good news and headed in the right direction. And the good news is that economic success is all across the state. It’s not just like the old days, New York City is doing well but Upstate is lagging. This success is across all of upstate New York. And this is one remarkable state. That New York State today has more private sector jobs than it has ever had before in its history – 7.9 million jobs. 31,000 new jobs in the Capital Region.
And what makes the economic progress even sweeter for me is that it is matched by social progress. While we were doing all these good things for the economy, we were also leading the economy when it came to social progress. We were the first big state to stand up, pass marriage equality – it reverberated across the country. And I believe we changed the national tide. Same thing, we passed paid family leave and that is now resonating all across the country. We stood up and said we have to raise the minimum wage because you can’t live on nine dollars an hours, and we now have the best minimum wage policy in the United States. It really has been a period of dramatic progress. And the dramatic progress was because we took dramatic action – we made a lot of fundamental changes when we took over. The problem that the state had had for many years that was slowing it down was that this was the state that was just on a spending spree. This state was literally spending at a higher rate than the people of the state were earning income. Think about that. You’re literally spending more than you are making. And that is the whole story of the state of New York for 50 years. The entire financial picture. And what’s fascinating is that it didn’t matter democratic, republican, all this political back and forth. It’s a remarkably simple story. Nelson Rockefeller, Governor for 16 years, Republican, spent about 11 percent more every year. Hugh Carey, 7.9 percent more every year. Mario Cuomo, God rest his soul, 6.9 percent more every year. George Pataki, 5.2 percent more every year. Now this is at a time that inflation was 4.1 percent, okay? So inflation is at 4 percent for 50 years, you are spending more than the rate of inflation, which is generally a correlation for how much people are making. That’s why the people of New York felt put upon. The reason they felt that government was taking more and more of their money was because government was taking more and more of their money. That’s why they felt that way, and it had gone on for a long time.
Another interesting thing about this chart. Mario Cuomo. Democrat, big spending liberal. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Loses an election to George Pataki because we need Republican conservative fiscal restraint because Cuomo’s a spending liberal. Yeah. What is the difference between a Democratic liberal big spender and a conservative Republican fiscal restraint? 1.7 percent. That’s the difference between the two of them. That’s all it came down to. But we did have to make a dramatic change, because you couldn’t keep spending like that. You can’t spend money you don’t have and you can’t spend more money than the people are making. And the best thing we did is we got spending under control. Six years, we’ve been at 1.4 percent. Now, 1.4 percent. We have the growth down low, but it’s actually spent smarter than ever before. We managed the government. You start with a budget, about $130 billion, you can do a lot with $130 billion, een without raising it a lot. Just be smarter about the way you spend and manage the $130 billion. And that’s what did. So we kept spending down low, but we spent more on education on ever before in the state of New York. More for Upstate New York than ever before in the history of the State of New York. So it was a prioritization. What it allowed us to do is when you bring the spending down, you can bring the taxes down. And we brought taxes down all across the board. Literally, on every level – business tax, income tax, corporate tax. And New York became more business-friendly. Businesses stopped leaving, we started attracting businesses. Young people stopped leaving, they started staying home to find a future here. And we woke up Albany to an important fact. And the important fact was that Upstate matters. For too many years, the state legislature was myopically focused on downstate New York. Why? Because most of them were elected from downstate New York. It’s just human nature.
It’s just human nature. That’s where the population is. That’s where the seats are and that’s where the focus was. But the problem, and the cruel irony is Upstate New York is what actually needed the help. Upstate New York was going through an economic transformation, manufacturing jobs were leaving. And the legislature was focused just on downstate. We literally reversed that, and we said “Let’s put the money where the need is,” which is in Upstate New York, let’s get that economy running. Because that’s the right thing to do, and by the way, it’s still the right thing to do for downstate because at the end of the day—upstate, downstate, we’re one state. And if Upstate is doing better, it’s better for downstate anyway. And we invested, we invested over $25 billion in Upstate New York over the past 6 years and we’re seeing the results of it.
We also started a new approach, which was the officials in Albany were not going to sit here and tell the regions how to do economic development. We wanted to flip the entire equation and go to those regions and those business leaders, and say you tell us what the smartest business plan is in your region. You tell us how to revitalize the Capital Region. How to revitalize Western New York. And then we had a competition among all the business plans, and we said the best business plans, we will reward money to. And they’ll invest it, and they’ll create jobs. And it’s worked, it’s worked better than we could have imagined. We’ve invested $4.6 billion through the REDCs, created 210,000 jobs on 5,200 projects. Right here in the Capital Region $437 million has been invested, over 600 projects. Like the convention center where we invested $66 million in downtown Albany. 157 permanent jobs—it is going to be a great asset to the city and I want to congratulate the mayor. Congratulations for a great project. River Casino Resort $330 million. After we passed the casino gaming referendum. 1,200 in Schenectady, and tourism in Schenectady. College, First College of Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security right here at NANO, University of Albany. 6.3 million to clean-up Lake George. We’ve invested heavily in tourism, and have gotten a phenomenal dividend. We invested $150 million, which is a lot of money in tourism. It increased our tourism dollars $9 billion. We now have an economic impact of $102 billion annually and this has helped, especially upstate, in the Capital District Region and the North Country has really benefited from these tourism investments. And we’re going to continue doing it, because the more people who come upstate, they are all blown away by what they see—the beauty and the history, and they come back. So we just have to get them here the first time.
So all this good news, and all this success, maybe we we’re going to take it easy for a few years, we’re going to take a vacation. No, it’s not our way. You see all we have done, it really whets your appetite, because all that dramatic success only shows that we have immense potential. And we have more to do. And this year, I want to focus especially on the middle class and working men and women in this state. Because this economy has been very erratic. And some people have done very well, but the middle class has really taken it, taken it on the chin. Middle class in terms of real wages, are behind where they were 20 years ago. We talk about the anger in the election, and the roar that we heard in the election. Yeah. 20 years without an increase in real wages. That’s what we heard. That middle class anger—and that’s what we have to address. I want to do it with the Middle Class Recovery Program that talks about jobs and infrastructure.
Again, to create jobs, we’ve invested in tourism, it works. I want to continue to invest in tourism but I want to take it to a new level. And I want to do a project that I think is going to excite the people all across the state and all across this nation. If not—interest people internationally. Which is the largest multi-use trail in the nation, called the Empire State Trail. Now this is really exciting. The Empire State Trail would be a 750 mile finished pathway that travels all through our parks, valleys, waterways. It would connect the Erie Canal Trail with the Hudson River Valley Greenway Trail. They both exist in components, but they’re not complete. So you have an Erie Canal way Trail now that goes part of the way from Buffalo to Albany. You also have a Hudson River Valley Greenway Trail that goes from Manhattan to Lake George—but again, only in segments, only in parts. What we want to do, and then, there’s a, we’d use state bike route to go from Lake George to the North Country to the Canadian Border. The path itself would allow people to cycle, run, walk, all year long, no motor vehicles. Residents and visitors, we would team it with an app that gives you all the different locations. All the bed and breakfasts, places where you can stay et cetera. It would also take us through many of the communities along the way, so you could bring tourism dollars off this trail and into the towns and communities that are but the trail. Just think about it, you’re coming from Manhattan up through the Hudson Valley, you’re going right up along the Hudson, so you’re going through all that beautiful history, you’re going past Olana, you’re going past FDR’s home, et cetera. You’re then going across the state, the Martin Van Buren site, Island State Park, Saratoga National Battlefield, Fort Ticonderoga. It could be a history tour, it could be a geography tour, it could be a natural resources tour. It could really just be a fantastic outing for a whole variety of interests. If you then go from Albany over to Buffalo, just think of all the history you would see, going to Amsterdam, Utica, et cetera.
There are hundreds and hundreds of destinations along the way. There are campgrounds, there are state parks, there are historic sites, and we would put it all together, and organize it, so you could go to either part of this trail, and do part of the trail, or you could do larger, larger parts of it. I believe we could attract people from literally around the world to come here. We started our tourism premise that there are 50 million visitors who come to New York City, but never go north of New York City. And if we could just get those tourists to start to look north, and see what we have north, they would come back and back and back. And we were right, and that’s why tourism is growing. I believe this trailway can be an international magnet to bring people here. Bike tours, running tours. So all we have to do is pave and grade 350 miles of multi-use road. We’re going to link 40 trail segments in total, 50 bridges, all new trails with finished blacktop, new benches, lighting, scenic outlook etcetera. We’re going to do it in three phases. This is what now exists. Phase 1 will complete 72 miles of it. Phase 2 will complete 82 miles of it. Phase 3 will complete 196 miles which will really complete the piece up through the North Country to the Canadian Border. Phase, much of the existing property is already state owned. So there is not a lot of acquisition cost for the land. Most of the acquisition cost is building the trail itself. It’s not an engineering marvel. It’s just a blacktop path. But we can do it. It’s going to have a lasting effect. The economic impact, they estimate, is that for every $1 million invested it’s 9.6 jobs. Homebuyers who fill out surveys say they love the idea of living next to this trail. Total trail cost is $200 million, I want to start this year with the $53 million to complete phase 1. It will be a legacy that we can leave our children. I believe that and I’m proud of it.
To grow more jobs, we’re embracing the innovation economy, and ridesharing is part of the innovation economy. Right now it is legal in New York City, it not legal outside of New York City. That is unfair in my opinion. Ridesharing creates jobs, it saves lives, it produces alternatives. Going back to tourism it’s very important for tourism. People rely on it when they get here and it goes back to the point I mentioned earlier. That this state legislator has to remember that upstate matter. If it’s legal for downstate it should be legal for upstate. So let’s pass ridesharing, let’s do it this year. You tell your state legislators pass ridesharing or don’t come home. Don’t come home unless you’re in an Uber or a Lyft car. Otherwise don’t come home. Part of what’s been working for us is driving the economies is investing in infrastructure. We right now we have the largest infrastructure investment in the history of the state of New York at $100 billion dollars. We’re doing roads and bridges all across the state. We’re also reimagining airports. Why? Because airports are the new front door to communities. Business people come into an airport and an airport is no longer an airport. It’s like a business commerce center. And they want to be able to come in and have a meal and do business and get out. And if you want to be competitive you have to be state of the art. In truth, this nation has lost ground internationally. You can fly into airports all around this globe and they are much more advanced than what we have here. Poor Vice President Joe Biden. He tells the truth which in politics can sometimes be a problem. He said if you were blindfolded on and airport and you landed at LaGuardia and took off the blindfold you would think you were in a third world nation. And all the politician’s booed him and they wanted an apology. And I said you know he’s right. He’s right! And we’re rebuilding LaGuardia and we’re rebuilding JFK. But it’s also true for upstate New York. Our airports and our train stations. 1971 Schenectady tore down the old train terminal which needed to be torn down, but it was never replaced since 1971. We’re going to invest $15 million dollars and build a new Schenectady train station. It is going to be state of the art. Latest in security and safety measures plus world class passenger amenities. It will be a rail hub for the 21stcentury.
Upstate airports – Plattsburgh International Airport poses a great opportunity for us. And what we want to do in Plattsburgh is not just redo the airport but literally make it a full economic development hub for the North County located with the airport. So we’re going to start with the 60,000 square foot industrial incubator to commercialize aviation technologies. We’ll also build a new 15,000 square foot distribution center to work with the companies that are up there now and are moving their good. That will create 60 full time jobs. We will also construct a new general aviation’s custom facility as part of the complex to expedite the goods going in and out. A Clinton County Transit Center onsite, electric vehicle charging stations to attract private investment 200 acres of developable space will be located next to the airport on the same grounds as the incubator and the distribution center. And that will be on top of $55 million dollars that is building a new airport in the first. So it will be an entirely new hub with fine dining etc. and I believe this is going to be a major boost to the North County. 825 construction jobs, but it is an economic engine in and of itself. And we are awarding $38 million dollars to the Plattsburgh International airport to complete this project to total cost of $43 million dollars. We’d like to get it done in 24 months.
Part of infrastructure you don’t think of but it’s an important part of infrastructure, is our water infrastructure. And we have two problems going on at the same time, and we’ve experienced them here in the Capital region. We have old infrastructure, old pipes and we have issues with the quality of our drinking water. That this was an industrial state for many years. We did a lot of manufacturing for many years. We left a lot of garbage frankly in the ground. Those chemicals eventually found their way into the ground water. It seems like every week the federal government comes up with a new chemical that they list that now can be potentially dangerous if you drink it. You take care of the chemicals they tell you are dangerous and then a week later they add another chemical. The technology of the filtration, the cleanliness of the system is paramount. It is expensive, it’s very expensive for local communities but this is the water our children are drinking and I don’t want to find out years from now inadvertently we were letting them drink water that had trace chemicals that wind up being dangerous for them. They deserve the best. We deserve the best water infrastructure. I want to invest $2 billion to help these local communities put in a real water system.
All of this comes back to education. We talked about jobs and job development. One thing is clear, the jobs are going to the educated workforce. The manufacturing jobs that are coming back are now called advanced manufacturing jobs. They’re all about this. There is no job anymore where it’s the strength of your back, it’s the strength of your mind. That’s true for this state, its true for this country. 30 years ago this country had the most college educated people on the globe. Today we’re number 11. It’s a problem for this country. It’s a problem for the state. Businesses are going to locate in states with educated workforces. Period. The people who are going to succeed are the people who have an education. What high school was 75 years ago, college is today. And we really are at a point where for our young people they need a college education if they want to maximize their potential. And the way we made high school free, we should make college free. That’s what we should do. It shouldn’t just be for the people who can afford it. Average debt now for a child coming out of college is $30,000. I want to take the first step in the state of New York and I want to say for families who make $125,000 and below tuition free to all our state schools. In the Capital Region, 75 percent of the families would qualify for tuition free public schools. We have to lower taxes, we’ve done it every year we have to do it again. The cost of child care for middle class families, the average cost for two children has gone to $25,000 a year, believe it or not. You wonder how people make it. We want to double the state’s credit for child care. It will help 200,000 families who need it desperately.
There is another example of a tremendous problem that people are having where the state can make I believe a difference that is profound in this country. And that is the cost of prescription drugs. It was an issue that I worked on as attorney general. Some of these companies are just unconscionable. That they are in a position where they can exploit the user because you need the drug, sometimes to live, and they control the price and it’s a monopoly. And they can gouge the consumers. And there’s been very little that we can do about it for many, many years except complain. The costs have been going up the societal costs are unbelievable. It’s about 26 percent of all premiums now higher than hospitalization. And in some cases you see these drugs go up 1500 percent just in one year. It really is an outrage worse than an outrage. We need to do more. It’s not enough to just point out the problem. No family should have to choose between buying drugs, and paying for food or for rent. We need a comprehensive plan to reign in the cost of prescription drugs and that’s what we’re going to do. We run, the state runs a program called Medicaid which provides healthcare for many lower income people. We are going to cap the price that prescription drugs can be sold through the Medicaid program by creating a State Review Board. The State Review Board will set the fair price for that drug. And the State Review Board will not pay more for that drug when it is offered to the Medicaid program. That price will also apply to private sales. So if a drug manufacturer sells that drug in the private market above the fair price, as determined by the state review board, that drug will have to pay a surcharge for the overage. It’s the first plan like it in the United States. It says to the drug manufacturers, “You’re not going to come in here and gouge us. We’re not going to buy it under Medicaid for an exorbitant price. And if you sell it in our state, we’re going to make you pay a surcharge on the money you shouldn’t have been charging in the first place and we’ll then take the money that we collect from those drug sales and we’ll put it back to the insurance providers to reduce the cost of insurance. This is going to make a difference across the entire state, and I feel very good about it because that’s what government is supposed to do, is make a difference in people’s lives.
But this is a government, frankly, that can do even more. And to do more, we need to do more first to restore the public trust. Because as public servants, we earn the trust of the people we serve and we can only do as much as that trust allows us to do. And unfortunately in Albany, there have been a series of breaches of the trust. It has happened in the legislature, both houses, it’s happened in the state comptroller’s office, it’s happened in my own office. And we have to say to the people of this state, “We get it. People will do bad things, that is the nature of humanity. But we are going to have as many precautions as possible, and when someone does something wrong, we’re going to make sure they are punished to the full extent of the law and we have a system that’s going to catch them.” We have passed ethics reform every year since we have started. We passed more dramatic ethics reforms in six years than in the past 60. You look at the amount of disclosure done by government officials now and legislators today, it dwarfs anything done previously. With all that, it’s still not enough and we have to propose additional ethics reforms and I’m going to do it this year.
First proposal is a constitutional amendment that would limit outside income and create a full-time legislature so there’s no outside income and there’s no possibility for a conflict. Second, would be a proposal for a constitutional amendment proposing term limits for elected officials. Third, require an independent advisory opinion before earning outside income for a government official so there’s no conflict of interest. It protects the public and it protects the government official from anyone saying he or she did anything wrong. Four, close the LLC loophole, which is just a pure loophole in the campaign finance law. Five, more disclosure for local elected officials. Six, institute public financing and additional campaign finance reforms. Seven, increase transparency through FOIL for the legislature. Eight, expand the authority of the state inspector general to SUNY, CUNY and the not-for-profits of SUNY and CUNY. Nine, procurement reforms where once an RFP goes out, there can be no political contributions from anyone bidding on that RFP and no political contributions from the winner of the RFP for six months after its done. Ten, the Port Authority of New York/ New Jersey went through a terrible scandal: The Bridgegate scandal. Since then, there have been no reforms to the Port Authority that have actually been legislated. New York passed a law. New Jersey passed a different law. If you don’t have the same law, you have nothing. So we’ve really enacted no significant reforms at the Port after the Bridgegate scandal. And the Bridgegate scandal was very, very troubling. It was basically a politicization of the agency. I want to appoint an inspector general to watch the Port Authority to make sure New Yorkers’ interests are being protected. And I think we should have an inspector general at the state education department that is appointed by the Senate and the Assembly.
Now I understand the legislature’s frustration. They will say that ethics reform is never enough. I get it. As I’ve pointed out, we’ve passed ethics reform every year. They will say, “One bad apple spoils the bunch,” and I understand that also. You have thousands and thousands of people who work in public service. They all do the right thing, they all kill themselves for very little money. And then you have a few venial bad actors who, who taint public service for everyone. So there’s truth to the legislature’s frustration. But the public support is important and the public support… we are limited by our public support and if that legislature and if our executive wants to really do all they can, we need to improve the public trust. And that is improving the confidence in Albany and improving our capacity to move forward and make the relationship work better for everyone. And most of all, when you’re in public service, the reward you get is not in a paycheck. You can make a lot more money outside of public service. The reward is that you believe you are doing good things, and you believe that you are making a difference. And we have been doing good things, and we have been doing great things. All across this state, we have been doing historic work. And the government is doing more than it’s ever been doing before. But just imagine what we could do if we really had 100 percent confidence from the people of this state. If they knew that we were 100 percent total integrity, we had that confidence. There’s nothing that we couldn’t do, and I’m not going to stop trying until I get there.
One last point, and I’m going to end on the first point that the rabbi mentioned. These are frightening times. And these are difficult times. And these are politically ugly times. And the election was dramatic and the political season was heated. And I can’t tell you how many people literally seem shaken by what has been going on in the country, and questioning who we are and what we believe and what we’re all about. But I want you all to rest assured that these are stormy times and they’re times of instability, but New York will always be New York. And New York is a place of equal rights and equal opportunity regardless of who you are and regardless of where you come from. You know, the New York experience is different, it is unique. We are on the East Coast, we do have the Statue of Liberty in our harbor. We were the welcome mat for all those immigrants who were arriving here. We are one of the states with the greatest diversity, we grew up with the diversity. We grew up in communities where everybody was an immigrant. You want to deport immigrants? Immigration is bad? Deport me. I’m an immigrant. I’m the son of Mario, I’m the grandson of Andrea. We are all from somewhere else and we’ve learned in New York that you can take people from all across this globe and you can bring them together and you can make one community from them. And that’s what we believe! We believe in immigration. We believe in tolerance. We believe in fostering a spirit of community, which is mutuality and sharing and assisting. We believe in women’s rights and advancing women’s rights and treating women with respect. We believe in gay rights. We believe everyone should be free from discrimination. We believe in mutuality. We believe when our founding fathers said “E Pluribus Unum. Out of Many, One.” That says it all. And we say it in New York with one word: which is Excelsior. Ever Upwards. We listen to our better angels and we’re going to take this state even higher. Thank you and God bless you.