Cuomo delivers grand plans for NYS in speech
by Shane Miller
Jan 24, 2012 | 517 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke at Queens College last Thursday, recalling the state of New York when he took office, outlining his current initiatives, and delivering his vision for the future.

On New York when he took office last year, Cuomo said it was a toxic combination of a failing economy and dysfunctional government.

"New Yorkers were hurting from an economy that was wreaking havoc, and at the same time you had a government that was filled with scandal and ripe for partisanship," he told a packed LeFrak Concert Hall on the college's Flushing campus. "Worse than a budget deficit, we had a trust deficit, performance deficit, and integrity deficit.

"We had a state with people with many problems, and a government that didn't have the capacity and the credibility to make a difference," he added.

Cuomo, who was raised in Queens, detailed some of the accomplishments of his short administration, including closing a $2 billion budget deficit, lowering property taxes, passing tough rent regulation laws, and government ethics reform.

He also touted his tax reform package, which creates different tax rates for different levels of income earners.

"The more you make, the higher rate you pay," he said, noting that the new tax legislation gives the middle-class the lowest tax rate it has enjoyed in 58 years.

He also spoke of marriage equality, which gives same-sex couples the right to marry, and said he believed New York State had set a precedent that will soon be followed across the United States.

"When New York does something, it has a profound effect that radiates across the entire country," Cuomo said. "I believe at one point this will be the law of the nation."

As for the future, the governor said it was important for the state to build on a burgeoning tourism industry, and the cornerstone of that plan was building the nation's largest convention center at Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park.

"People don't just come, they come because you are creating, building, and developing," he said.

Cuomo labeled the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan "outdated" even when it opened in the 1980s. He then called convention centers a "big tool in economic development" before vowing to build the nation's largest in Queens, to the morning's loudest applause from the audience, which included a large contingent of union members.

The governor also reiterated his intent to bring casino gambling to New York State, effectively replacing the state's "racinos," which combine electronic gaming - in the form of video lottery terminals - and horse racing, with casinos.

"These machines do everything you can do in a casino," said Cuomo, noting that at 29,000 machines, New York has more video lottery terminals than Atlantic City. "Yet, we still deal with this false delusion that we're not in the gaming business because we don't have casinos."

He also outlined his recent proposal that school districts that fail to implement a credible teacher evaluation system before January of next year will not receive additional education funding.

The governor said that bureaucracy and business interests, in the form of lobbyists for education professionals from principals to bus drivers, had usurped the true mission of schools.

"It's not about funding a system, it's about helping an individual," Cuomo said. "It's not about the salaries and pensions of people who work in education, those are not the numbers that matter. The numbers that matter are the graduation rates and test results of students."

Cuomo said that if a teacher evaluation system isn't in place soon, the state could lose out on $700 million in Race to the Top funding, which constitutes a huge percentage of the promised $800 million in increased education funding to local school districts around the state.

"We're behind the rest of the nation right now," he said. "This year, we're going to catch up."

At the end of his speech, Cuomo urged voters to demand change at the ballot box.

"Change comes when the people demand change," he said. "I need you to step up and make your voice heard. You know what the ultimate power in the system is? Pulling the lever."

But Grace Davie, a professor at Queens College, disagreed with Cuomo. A member of the Occupy Wall Street movement, she briefly interrupted Cuomo's speech. She said in an interview after that she hoped to persuade Cuomo to join the "99 Percent" in its efforts to remove money from politics.

"I think it was interesting that the governor thought the only way for the people to express themselves was by voting," she said.
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