Governor Cuomo presented what he called his “justice agenda” Tuesday, highlighting a series progressive issues in his state of the state and budget address. We’ve already seen examples with voting reforms approved by lawmakers Monday, and protections for transgender people yesterday.
He’s also focused on the environment with his ambitious “green new deal,” which includes help from a Central New York institution.
“Let us set the goal, 100% clean power by 2040, highest in the Unites States, a climate action council to eliminate the state’s carbon footprint. And let’s get SUNY ESF to work with the REDC’s to come up with the next generation of clean technology and train our workforce for those jobs,” said Cuomo.
Michel Kracker, Executive of Unshackle Upstate, a pro-business group worries the details are costly.
“We can all get behind an increase in reliance on renewables, but setting a date and not really giving us a path forward how to get there, is no doubt going to lead to higher utility bills for families and businesses across the state.”
He also has concerns with a proposal to expand the prevailing wage to any project receiving a public subsidy. Kracker says most projects of any significance Upstate require some form of government help to get off the ground.
“If you’re adding prevailing wage you’re going to drive up the labor costs in some communities as much as 25%. You’re essentially negating any incentive that you’re providing to the project. And some of these projects in reality just won’t take place.”
On the other hand, Kracker was pleased to hear the Governor commit to making the 2% tax cap permanent, and propose $18 billion in tax relief to make up for not being able to deduct state and local taxes under federal tax laws.
“As our middle-class homeowners are feeling this pressure, and middle-class taxpayers, I want to give them some relief and show them that we hear them and know the pain that they’re under. And let’s lower the middle-class tax rate.”
That nod to Upstate homeowners gives Kracker at Unshackle Upstate some optimism in an agenda that he says otherwise could place more burdens on already struggling businesses and taxpayers.
OTHER REATIONS TO THE STATE OF STATE & BUDGET MESSAGES
Education advocates were displeased at what they see as a continuing lack of enough funding for schools to be successful. The Alliance for Quality Education calls the $338 million in foundation aid for schools ‘miniscule.’
“The path to equity in education is through fully funding the Foundation Aid formula. Schools statewide are owed $4.1 billion from the state and anything less equates to educational racism,” said Jasmine Gripper, Legislative Director, Alliance for Quality Education. “Throughout his tenure Governor Cuomo has blamed everyone else for his failure to address educational equity. He blamed teachers, he blamed administrators and the schools districts. But the reality is Governor Cuomo's refusal to adequately fund the Foundation Aid formula is the biggest hindrance to achieving equity for New York's public schools.”
Meanwhile agriculture interests are pleased with support for farms and farming.
“New York Farm Bureau is grateful for the historic commitment Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget is making to agriculture in the state,” said New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher. “The expected appropriations for agricultural research, marketing and promotion will be a true investment in the state’s farm families. In addition, there is increased support for the Environmental Protection Fund and programs to address climate resiliency and soil health which are important to the future of New York agriculture.”
GREEN NEW DEAL FOR NEW YORK?
Some environmental groups praised Cuomo for bringin attention to issues such as climate change and renewable energy. Environmental Advocates of New York Executive Director Peter Iwanowicz says there should be consensus among state leaders.
"Governor Cuomo’s budget acknowledges that it’s a new day in New York with thoughtful proposals on environmental priorities like water infrastructure, congestion pricing, and climate. The Governor must also recognize that his partners, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, have been leading on these issues for years and are eager to get to work. With all three state leaders expressing their strong commitment to the environment, there are finally no more obstacles and no more excuses—the time for New York to take its place as an environmental leader is now.”
Meanwhile Green Party Gubernatorial Candidate Howie Hawkins says the reforms don’t go far enough on environmental and economic measures.
“Progressives should not let progress on social issues obscure the economic problems so many New Yorkers face every day,” Hawkins said in a release. “Inflation-adjusted wages have been stagnant for decades. Today more than 2 in 5 New York families suffer through periods without food, health care, housing, and/or utilities. 1 million New Yorkers lack health insurance. More than half of children in our cities are poor and attend segregated, underfunded public schools. Over half of New Yorkers pay a third or more of their income on rent. Gentrification and displacement is driving working class New Yorkers out of their own neighborhoods in the cities, while chronic rural depression in upstate New York is driving family farmers and small-town businesses off the land.”
Hawkins says Cuomo is joining other Democrats on the ‘Green New Deal” bandwagon, but is not fully committed to its goals.
The legislature now has the chance to go over budget proposals, proposae changes, then try to implement a new spending plan by the state’s April 1st deadline.