Gov. Cuomo delivers State of the State Address in Syracuse

Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered his 2017 regional State of the State address in Syracuse on Wednesday morning. Below is a video of the speech and a transcript of his remarks.



Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much. I love the way Joanie did that; a built in standing ovation when you do it that way. It is really my pleasure to be back, I’m very excited about the news were going to share with you today. But first, to the color guard and the Nottingham students, didn’t they do a great job? Let’s give them a round of applause. To your great county executive Joanie Mahoney, it’s a pleasure to be with you county executive. All the acknowledgements were done, but our great Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul is here. Our great former Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy is here. He’s looking a little better rested, I might add, than I’m accustomed to seeing him. We have commissioner Zemsky, Driscoll, Roberts and Riordan who are with us, and I want to thank them for their good work on this presentation. Let’s give them a round of applause. Gary Finch, the members of the REDC, Mario Cilento, the Mayors are here, Mayor Quill is also here, let’s give them a round of applause.

This is the time of year that we talk about the state of the state. President will do the state of the union, the new president will be doing the state of the union soon, which lays out a broad vision for what he sees for the country. County execs do the state of the county, mayors do the state of the city, we do the state of the state. We’re doing it a little differently this year. Which is, were doing it literally region by region across the state. Why? Because part of what you want to know about is how is the state doing as a whole. And the other part you want to know about is how is our region doing. Because that’s what’s most proximate and most relevant to you and we have spent so much so much time, we have made so much progress, and we have such a story about regional success that we want to share with you today. The short answer is, what is the state of the state this January 11? The ship of state is probably stronger than it has been in decades. We have made remarkable economic and social progress on almost any front. From the time of FDR and Robert Moses, you have not seen the state government that is actually produced more, achieved more, passed more meaningful legislation, than we have over the past few years, or built more for the people than this government has actually accomplished. We’ve done a lot of good work together over the past six years. We all have a lot to be proud of. State level, county level, local level, all working together, and the question now is: how do we do more? But the progress is there. The main indicator of progress: how many jobs have you created? How many people do you have working? Our unemployment rate has gone from 8.4 percent six years ago down to 5.1 percent. And the good news is that that economic success is shared all across the state. It’s not just New York City that’s doing well, it’s the entire state. And this fact puts it all in a nutshell. Today, the state of New York has more private sector jobs than have ever existed in the history of the State of New York at 7.9 million jobs. We have 77,000 new jobs in Central New York since 2010, and what makes the economic progress even sweeter is that it is matched by social progress.

We’ve also made great social advances. New York was one of the first big states to pass marriage equality, it changed the discussion all across the country. I believe that it accelerated marriage equality becoming a national reality. And that’s something to be proud of in the legacy of the state, passing marriage equality. We passed paid family leave, which is now a model all across the country. We raised the minimum wage because we said we understood the anger of working people who can’t make ends meet. And we raised the minimum wage overtime to $15. So the state has made dramatic progress all across the board. But it’s not just that we made progress. We made progress because we took action. It’s not an accident that the state turned around. We worked very hard to turn it around. And the basic point that we had to attack was that the state of New York spent too much money as a state government and spent too much money for too long. It was literally on a spending spree for 50 years. The state of New York was increasing the rate of spending at a higher rate than the income of the people was going up. Think about that. The state was spending money at a higher rate than the incomes of the people were going up. Which made New Yorkers feel that the state government was putting their hand deeper and deeper into their pocket. You know why they felt that way? Because the state was putting its hand deeper and deeper into their pocket. And you know sometimes we get caught up in politics and democrat and republican, this says it all started 50 years ago.

Governor Nelson Rockefeller was a republican. He was governor for 16 years. On average, his spending went up 11 percent every year. This is during a period when the average inflation rate was four percent. So the state’s spending is going up at 11, the inflation is at four. After Governor Rockefeller, Governor Hugh Carey. Democrat. He spent at 7.9 percent. After Governor Carey, Mario Cuomo. 6.9 percent. After Mario Cuomo, George Pataki, 5.2 percent. This is interesting to me. Because Mario Cuomo, God rest his soul, Democrat, big spending liberal. Right? George Pataki comes in, after Mario Cuomo, wins the election because he’s a Republican conservative and he’s going to bring fiscal restraint. Well, fiscal restraint. The difference between a big spending Democrat liberal and a Republican conservative turns out to be 1.7 percent. Who would have ever figured? So that was the basic trajectory of the state for 50 years. That’s what had to be changed. And that is easier said than done. That’s, you know, New Year’s Resolution I’m going to lose ten pounds. I just have to cut down on the calories that I’m taking in, and I’ll be fine. I know. The plan is right, it’s bulletproof. The implementation is very hard. Spend less money. It’s hard to spend less money. The legislature wants to spend more money. The executive wants to spend more money. There are a lot of good things to do. And curbing spending is very hard. But we did it. And we just didn’t do it for one year, we did it for six years. And we didn’t do it just a little bit, we did it to historic proportions. And we literally reduced our spending to 1.4 percent which is obviously dramatically lower than anything that had been done in the past 50 years. When you get spending down that low, when you get your caloric intake down that low, good things happen. And then we were able to cut taxes and we’ve cut taxes all across the board from every income rate, state taxes, business taxes, personal income taxes. All taxes are down. And that started to change the impression of New York as an anti-business state that businesses had to leave and people had to leave. We also work to make government entrepreneurial. And assistance to bring business, as opposed to opposition.

And we also woke up Albany to a fact that upstate New York matters. Because the painful truth, and the legislators will tell you, in a moment of candor, the state government in Albany, it was hyper-focused on New York City. Why? Most of the members of the legislature come from New York City. Most of the members of the Senate—leadership—come from Long Island. And human instinct, elected representatives want to do for their home district. So they were focused on New York City and they were focused on Long Island. And upstate New York got the short end of the stick for many, many, many years. And we changed that—by saying when I comes to the budget, when it comes to initiatives, we have to make up for the short fall for upstate New York. Because, by the way, upstate needed I more than downstate. Upstate was going through a very difficult economic transformation. That whole manufacture ring economy was shifting, they needed help, and the state government wasn’t there. Not only did we say we wanted to focus on upstate, but we said we wanted to do it a different way. We didn’t want the Albany bureaucrats or the Albany politicians to be telling a locality what they should do. We didn’t want Albany saying this is what you need to do Syracuse, this is what’s good for you. And here’s money, but you have to do this. We wanted to flip the equation 180 degrees. And we wanted to say to those regional leaders, you give us a business plan on how you can generate jobs, and we will invest in your plan. And rather than Albany politicians dictating to a locality, we want a business plan from that locality that we can invest in. Why? Because it’s about jobs. And politicians are not the best people to do a plan that creates jobs. But if you put the business leaders in the room with the academics to come up with a joint plan, that’s the best way to do it. And that is exactly what we did, and then we made it a competition. And we said to the regions, “we want the best plans.” So we’ll have a competition, and the best plans will win all across the state. The approach is working, it’s been working very well. We put $4.6 billion through the REDC since 2011.


We created 210,000 jobs. $529 million in Central New York, 505 projects here. $500 million in something called the URI, to support the Central New York Rising Economic Plan. We have done great work—we did great work at the State Fair. I’ve been going there since I was a wee boy. And I tell you, every time I went, especially as I got older, more and more you had the feeling that we just weren’t keeping up with the times. And we just weren’t doing the repair and the maintenance that we needed to do. Well, now we did it. You go to the fairgrounds now, it is a totally different experience. And it’s only going to get better. We had the highest attendance in the 175 year history of the fair last year after our renovations, 1.1M visitors. That, that’s why you do it. The Hotel Syracuse, they’ve been talking about for how many years? Renovating the Hotel Syracuse. I remember Mayor Tom Young talking to my father about and fits and starts and people trying and you know what? We did it. $20 million – the Hotel Syracuse is back to life and it’s about time. It really is a symbol of the revitalization of Central New York. We invested $100 million to revitalize Onondaga Lake, it is impressive on every measure. We had canoe races on it, we had people fishing on it, I mean it is amazing how the lake has come back. We should all be proud. The County has done a heck of a job on the Onondaga Lakeview Amphitheater—it’s up for awards. It’s enhanced the work on the lake and enhanced the overall revitalization. We preserved Super DIRT week in Oswego. We’re working on the Central New York Raceway and we’ve given them funding to continue developing that.

The Empire Farmstead Brewery, 42,000 Square feet, part of what we’re doing with wine and beer all across this state. Which is now a tremendous industry for us, that we’ve invested in and we’ve grown, and is going extraordinarily well.

We invested in tourism, and we’ve had one of the most phenomenal returns that the state has ever seen. $102 billion in tourist activity we now do through the “I Love New York” campaign. The growth of tourism again is balanced across the state. And we’re only going to be doing more. For Central New York, roughly 20M tourists, up 13 percent since 2010. And we want to grow that even further. A central pillar of what we’ve been doing on the economic growth strategy is high-tech jobs and the infrastructure to move forward, right? More and more this is about, we know what jobs are waning, and what industries are waning. What are the industries of tomorrow, and how do we grow them here? That’s the game, and that’s the race that every state is in. State invested $2.65 million in INFICON for advanced manufacturing, creating 50 jobs. We invested $10 million which leveraged $400 million by Novelis, creating 650 jobs. Retaining 840.

But, with all we’ve done, we have more to do. And this year I want to focus with what I call the Middle Class Recovery Act. Because the middle class really has lagged behind in this economy. And that has to be a focus of our agenda going forward. We’re going to start with a plan that we’ve never broached before but I think it’s about time. New York State is very much an international state. And we do business all across the country. We’re a global center for finance. And I believe in international trade. I also believe that New Yorkers understand the value in investing in American made products. And this year, we are going to try something different, because manufacturing still is the bread and butter of many communities, especially on the east coast. And manufacturing is still 5 percent of all jobs, $70B of goods are manufactured here every year. We have a responsibility to support our people, to support our American jobs. We’re going to enact a Buy America proposal, giving preference to American made products in all state procurements over 100,000. Our Buy American Act will expand the Buy American provisions to all procurements over $100,000, protecting and expanding our state’s manufacturing and construction sectors. We will have the strongest Buy America program in the United States of America, period.

We started this with the Tappan Zee Bridge. All the steel that we use on the Tappan Zee Bridge is U.S. steel. It’s all been on time. We love those steel workers. To grow even more jobs, we’re embracing the innovation economy overall. Part of the innovative economy is ridesharing. And ridesharing is a new development as you know but it has tremendous effects on the economy. It is not legal in upstate New York it is only legal in New York City. That is unfair in my opinion. Why would you have it legal in the city but it’s not legal in upstate New York? Ridesharing creates jobs, it saves lives, it gives people alternatives. It’s unfair for to allow it to exist downstate but not upstate. Remember the same point upstate matters. We want to pass ridesharing. We want to pass it this session. We want to pass it early in the session. Tell your legislators don’t’ come home unless you come home in an Uber for a Lift because we want ridesharing. We’ll continue to attract high level economies to Central New York focusing again on tomorrow’s industries. If we’re doing it all across upstate New York we know what the industries were. The question is what will the new industries be?

We’re developing Nano in Albany. Bio-med and solar in Buffalo. Photonics is going wild in Rochester and we think there’s significant capacity for drone development in central New York and today we have a really exiting announcement. That we’ve been talking about and working on for a very long time. Saab will enter a partnership with the state where the state will invest $30 million dollars and Saab will establish their North American headquarters for defense and security division right here in Onondaga County. That is 260 new high tech jobs, $450 million for a total of 710 jobs retained. The training program will enable Saab defense and security to develop a customized US product schedule they are very excited about it. The development of radar and sensing technology will strengthen Central New York Rising as the verging drone industry. We’ve been ahead of this from day one. The development is all happening here. Nationwide this is an industry that has tremendous potential and we want the home of it and the capital of it to be central New York and it will. We need to continue investing in our infrastructure. We have a $100-billion-dollar commitment that we made on infrastructure. It’s the largest single amount this state has ever spent on infrastructure. Roads and bridges, tunnels all across the state. Here in Syracuse I-81 is an issue that we’ve been talking about. It is complex. It is multifaceted. We want to make sure we look at it from all angles to make the best decision that we can. And we want to do some more studies to make sure we have all the alternatives and the feasibility of all those alternatives. DOT has started their environmental review and they’re going to be studying three options. A community grid option, a tunnel option or a depressed highway option. And they will also be studding a combination of the community grid plus a tunnel and the community grid plus the depressed highway to see what is most feasible and what does the most good and what is the most economical. Once that report is done it will be shared with the public. We’ll have a conversation; we’ll make a decision. Airports are the new front door to regional growth. All across this world and if you want to talk about an area where this country is being left behind its in airports. For some reason, America over the past several decades has not been as aggressive in building and developing infrastructure as we once were. We led the world in building. Now the world is building us. You fly into airports all across the world it’s a different experience. Hong Kong, Dubai, Munich and then you fly into a New York airport and it’s an embarrassment frankly. God bless vice president Joe Biden who often speaks the truth. Which in politics can be dangerous at times. But he said if you are blindfolded and on a plane and you landed in LaGuardia airport and they took off your blindfold you would think you were in the third world country. And all the New York politics blasted poor Joe Biden. How could you say that you’re insulting New York? I said actually he’s telling the truth. Sometime you have to say the King has no clothes. LaGuardia is an embarrassment. JFK is an embarrassment downstate. And we’re going to build a new LaGuardia airport and we’re going to build a new JFK airport.

But buy the way it’s not just downstate. Syracuse Hancock opened in 1962. I’m sure in 1962 everybody loved it, but not to insult the Syracuse airport, but I think it is time to do better. We can do better. We need to do better. The drop-off canopy is a tad dark and unwelcoming. The main entrance doesn’t communicate to travelers that they have arrived to a growing and vibrant regional economy. Understatement of the century but yes. So we are going to partner with the county and we are going to transform and rebuild the airport from this to this. Joanie was insistent on the Orange I don’t know why, kidding but this is really exciting. It is a brighter, a more welcoming airport it is state of the art, it’s going to have sustainable designs, solar rooftop on the panel. Panels on the roof an ecofriendly green roof canopy. Above the drop off area glass pedestrian bridge that allows mobile ready passengers to skip the ticketing hall so you can go right in on the top level. Passenger exchange areas exposed to some light for the first time in decades. I liked the old airport. In 1962 when I was five I remember being there and loving it. The interior is receiving a complete redesign going from this which is very attractive but if it could be surpassed, it’s going to be surpassed by this.

The transformation is specifically designed to move passengers from curbside through security more efficiently. Technology will be better. All the airlines endorse the plan. It will also be an airport that is user friendly and business friendly. A lot of people now fly into an airport and they do their business in the airport. And they want to have a meal and they want to have a conference room and they want to be able to sit down and do their business and leave and that’s the airport of tomorrow. And that’s what we’re going to be building here. 869 construction jobs will be created in the meantime. The state will contribute $35 million to a total $45 million plan, congratulations to Central New York on a new airport. We anticipate it to be 24 months or less, Joanne Mahoney promised me. And we’ll go from this at the end of the day to this and I’m really excited because I think with all the progress we’re making, this is going to be a symbol for the revitalization for central New York. But there are other budding industries where New York is going to lead also. I believe hemp farming has great economic potential. People have been talking about it for a long time. The state of Kentucky has jumped on it and they have done very well. NY wants to capitalize on the possibility.

We now have hemp farming currently capped at 10 farms. The Southern Tier is actually ideal for hemp farming. We want to be very aggressive. We believe it could be a billion dollar industry. We want the Southern Tier to lead the way. We’re going to lift the cap on all hemp farming, let private market come in, let private farms be constructed and it’ll partner with the Department of Ag and Markets to make sure we are developing the industry correctly. But I think this could be a great economic opportunity for the Southern Tier.

All of this conversation- who gets the job, how many jobs- all comes back to one thing and that is education. 70 years ago you get a high school education and you’d be ok. You could work your way into the middle class, you could figure it out with a high school education. That is not true anymore. The numbers of jobs that require a college education is astronomical- 3.5 million by 2024. The jobs that are coming back to this country are advanced manufacturing jobs. They are about this, they’re not about this.

I was in Buffalo, the new GM motor plant where they build car motors. If there is a mechanical industry left it’s going to be car engines, right? $300 million plant, I’m walking through the plant and you know the one thing I never saw? Tools! It’s all automation. Machine picks up a block, cuts the pistons, next machine… and every 20 feet there’s a computer terminal with someone at the computer terminal in case there’s an automation problem. It’s here. For this country to remain an initial, a global leader, we have to have the best educated workforce. 30 years ago, United States of America had more college-educated people than any country on the globe. Today we are number 11. That’s a problem. The future is getting our people educated, for the country and for the state. The state that gets the jobs and wins the race is the state with the best educated workforce. I want that to be New York. If college is what high school was, we should be moving towards a place where college is free for students so every student can have one. Because right now it is very expensive. Student debt is up to $30,000, it puts a person under a tremendous liability. I want to take the first step towards free college, which is all families $125,000 or less, free tuition for their child. Central New York, that’s just about 80% of the families will actually qualify. We’re doing it, it’s the first in the nation. It’s the first in the nation but I think you’re going to see other states follow and I hope they do.

We have to continue to lower taxes, we’ve lowered taxes every year, but we have to continue to do it and we want to focus on the middle class. Child care costs have gone through the roof. Average child care costs for 2 children? $25,000 per year. We want to double our state credit, which will help 200,000 working families pay for child care. And this program will have an effect, positive effect for the entire middle class and it will have an effect all across this state. Let me say this in closing, there is no doubt that Central New York has gone through difficult times, all of Upstate NY has gone through a very difficult time and a difficult economic transformation. And I know it’s hard to get yourself and your spirit and your feelings back up again after such a period, but things are fundamentally different. Upstate is not on its own. Central NY is not on its own. The state government is a full, involved, active, competent partner and is there to invest and hope and help and build with you, every step of the way. The arrows are pointed in the right direction. The jobs are going up and the taxes are going down and that is the formula for success, and that is what is happening. Signs of progress are everywhere. Hotel Syracuse.

The new airport that is going to be built. The New York State Fair which looks different for the first time in 50 years. Saab coming to Syracuse with the initial technology for the drone industry, just think about it! If I had said that to you 5, 10 years ago you would have said I was drinking something. The Onondaga Lakeview Amphitheatre, on what was one of the most polluted superfund sites in the nation, now is the backdrop for a beautiful amphitheater that is up for awards. These are all positive signs of progress that are undebatable. All we have to do is keep it going, keep it going and we have the momentum with us now. We have the arrows turned, the energy is with us, we just have to keep working together. And we’re going to make Central NY better than ever before because at the end of the day, it is very, very simple. As a citizen, as a parent, as a human being, we have one fundamental responsibility when God puts us on this earth. He says one thing: ‘Leave this place better than you found it’ and that’s what we’re going to do. Thank you and God Bless You.