NEW YORK—Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined an agenda for the year ahead Wednesday underscored by reduced taxes, modernizing JFK and LaGuardia airports, a medical marijuana program for New York, extended Metro-North Railroad service, and free tuition to state college for some top students.
In his annual State of the State speech, Cuomo also took credit for creating 400,000 new private sector jobs, characterizing it as the highest job creation achievement in the state’s history. Exports increased 15 percent, and the state’s credit standing improved with all three rating agencies, Cuomo said. The state should have a $2 billion surplus by 2016–17, up from $10 billion in the red three years ago.
Among Cuomo’s broad $2 billion in tax reliefs are a freeze on property taxes for two years for some New York City residents, and tax relief for some low- and middle-income taxpayers earning up to $200,000 per year. A tax credit is offered for some renters with incomes below $100,000, particularly to help the 829,000 renters who pay more than 50 percent of their monthly cash to housing costs.
A streamlining of the state’s corporate tax structure to 6.5 percent gives the state the lowest rate since 1968. The estate tax has also been lowered to match that of the federal government.
On education, Cuomo reiterated his support for full-day universal prekindergarten for the state’s children, particularly for “high-need communities.” Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was in the audience for the speech, also supports pre-K. The two have yet to agree on how to pay for it.
Cuomo also added a new piece of his own to the state’s education reforms: a $2 billion bond referendum to help schools “re-envision our schools from the ground up” to incorporate a “high-speed, high-tech world.” The initiative will need voter approval.
In an effort to keep skilled workers in the state, Cuomo proposed a full-tuition scholarship to SUNY or CUNY colleges to the top 10 percent of high school graduates if they pursue a career in science, technology, engineering, or math, and commit to working in the state for five years after graduation.
Metro-North to Penn Station
Cuomo pledged support for an expansion of the Metro-North Railroad. New links for the New Haven Line would bypass both the Hudson River and East River corridors that flooded during Hurricane Sandy, adding resiliency to the system. The new link would involve construction of four new stations in the Eastern Bronx to ensure a path to Penn Station, as well as new service for residents of these communities.
The transportation upgrade is part of a $16.7 billion federal funding package that will go toward Sandy resiliency projects. Other highlights include a state-of-the-art weather detection system, involving 100 land-based stations reporting real-time weather data that is expected to improve predictive data. About 100 bridges will receive funding for repairs and 540 subway station openings in Lower Manhattan will be outfitted with seals to protect against future flooding.
As for New York City airports, the “state will identify opportunities to reimagine and dramatically improve the passenger experience at both LaGuardia and JFK.” Expect more high-quality shopping, satellites of popular local restaurants, on-airport hotels, showers, rapid charging stations, and free Wi-Fi.
The official announcement of Cuomo’s plan to allow 20 hospitals to dispense marijuana to people suffering from cancer and some other diseases under state Department of Health regulations also came during the speech Wednesday.
Cuomo is choosing to use his administrative powers rather than pushing for legislation.