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Governor Cuomo Announces Budget Agreement

This evening, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo held a press conference to announce an agreement on the FY 2018 State Budget. The agreement continues the state’s record of fiscal responsibility, holding spending growth to 2 percent while reducing taxes, making smart investments in education, enacting comprehensive criminal justice reforms, creating good-paying jobs, and rebuilding New York’s infrastructure. Information on the FY 2018 State Budget is available here.

AUDIO of the briefing is available here.

PHOTOS of the briefing are available on the Governor’s Flickr page.

A rush transcript of Governor Cuomo’s remarks are available below:

Well, for those of you who have hung in there, those of you who are students of government, and who take your jobs very seriously, we are pleased to announce that we have an agreement on the budget. The final bill is being printed as we speak. It has been gone through by both houses. It’s been approved by both houses. And it is literally going to run to print. I believe the Assembly is going to wait for the bill to come out of printing and the Assembly will vote. And it’s the education bill, which has so-called education run in it which is the distribution of the education funding so it is a big bill and it’s a complicated bill and takes a long time to print so it’s going to be a long, we don’t want to make the Assembly stay up too late past their bedtime, possibly in an irritable mood. I want to give my thank yous to the legislative leaders. Senator Flanagan and Senator Klein, Speaker Heastie for really an extraordinary job. This was a very robust and very challenging agenda because these are challenging times and they stepped up to the plate and they made it happen. We often say it, I have a relatively small conference. Me, myself and I. My conference. That’s enough. And they have conferences that they have to go back to and they have to get an agreement and it goes in both conferences now, you have very strong political fields and political wings are very strong in this country in the same ways they are in the state. So they’ve done a great job as leaders and you know it’s easy to be political. It’s not always easy to be a responsible governmental leader, which is about seeking compromise and forging consensus so I thank them for that. I also want to thank Beth Garvey, who is the Counsel to the Senate Majority, who’s done an extraordinary job, Blake Washington on the Assembly side, who’s Secretary of Ways and Means, really did a great job. And I hate to say it in front of them but my Budget Director Robert Mujica and Counsel Alphonso David really stepped up and I’m proud to call them colleagues.

I’m going to go through the budget relatively quickly, taking the toplines on it. Most of you are familiar with it to begin with. You have the overall numbers. Turns out to be $153 billion budget all in and seventh year, again, we are within the 2 percent spending cap. The 2 percent spending cap is the lowest rate of spending in modern history. The budget division does not have a record of a budget that only went up 2 percent. This state budget especially is more of a blueprint for the future of the state. We went through the November election and we’ve gone through a very difficult time in this nation and besides the decibel level of the dialogue and the politics, I think it’s important to listen to what people are saying and we have listened. There’s a tremendous sense of economic frustration and economic anxiety and the middle class in this state and this nation feel that they haven’t gotten a fair shake so we developed a budget that would address those issues. We did it in State of the State. Then since January, we have a new challenge, which is a new federal government that is making or threatening or planning significant changes for the state of New York. So we have to anticipate those changes and build a mechanism to deal with them. How do we protect the state and the state’s finances going forward when we know we’re in a position where we anticipate significant financial cuts. This plan does all that. And again I think the legislature has done the best work that I’ve seen as being Governor.

The Middle Class Recovery Act that we laid out in the State of the State, which is a comprehensive agenda to help the middle class, we accomplished it all. We said we’re cutting income taxes for the middle class and extending the Millionaire’s Tax and that’s exactly what this budget does. Middle class tax cut for more than 6 million taxpayers. We said that we would help the middle class by doubling the child care tax credit and that’s what this budget does. We said we have to do something about property taxes. It is the single greatest problem in this state as you’ve heard me say many times.

The problem of high taxes, I have high taxes in New York, that is a problem of property taxes. It’s not a state tax issue. Median tax to the state, $1,800. Median property tax, $4,700. Now, we passed the two percent property tax cap several years ago. That was a big breakthrough, it slowed the growth. We want to take it the next step.

We’ve tried attacking property taxes all different ways, we assumed all the growth of Medicaid, cost the state billions. But you need structural changes on the local and county level if you’re going to make a real difference in property taxes. this budget, this plan, has a new device that will do just that.

It empowers citizens to say to their local governments, enough is enough, we need you to make structural changes and we need you to do it now. The county executives will now be empowered to call together all the local governments in their county and come up with a plan of shared services and ways to control costs and then pass those savings onto the homeowner. The local governments must participate, they must explain to their citizens what did they accept or reject the recommendations of the commission and why. And the plan here is to give people power on the local level.

They’re angry, there upset, I hear about it all across the state. They don’t know what to do about it. Now you have something to do about it. You have the ultimate public process, county executive convene all the local governments, which they didn’t have the power to do before. Three hundred local governments in the room, the local governments will participate, come up with a plan. Each local representative will have to explain in writing to the people in their district why they voted yes and why they voted no.

We have the nation’s first accessible public college program, which is a national first. It is exploratory. It’s a different model. It says what we thought of high school 50 years ago, is the way you should think of college now. Why do we have free public high school? Because we made the determination as society that you needed high school. You needed it to succeed and you needed it as a society.

Well, today, college is what high school was. It shouldn’t be an option if you can’t afford it. This will make college accessible, tuition free, families up to $145,000, which is 80 percent of the households in this state will qualify for Excelsior Scholarship.

You want to talk about a difference government can make? This is the difference that government can make. There is no child who will go to sleep tonight and say I have great dreams, but I don’t believe I’ll be able to get a college education because mommy and daddy can’t afford it. Every child will have the opportunity that education provides.

We have also started a new program that further brings down the cost of college by investing $80 million into low cost options for books, like E-books. Think about it. Students now spend thousands of dollars on books. Why? There is no reason why these books shouldn’t be electronically available and why we can’t save that money for a student. We haven’t wanted to, it’s a big industry, the book industry, when I was Attorney General and I did student loan investigations, I ran across this and the book industry is a major industry, a major vendor to the university complex. But it’s time to think about the student first and that is what this is going to do.

K-12, we have the highest level of education funding in history – $700 million foundation aid, 4.4 percent increase to $25.8 billion. We have a full jobs program, Regional Economic Development Councils will now have Round 7 – $750 million. It accelerates our new New York construction and building program, $438 million program with programs all across the state, literally every region of the state. That program is funded and accelerated.

$70 million for the I Love New York to promote tourism. This has been a great success for the state. $150 million since 2011. Spending has increased $9 billion. Just think about that. $150 million investment – spending goes up 9 billion dollars, so it’s great for business.

The budget implements comprehensive workers compensation reform. Senator Flanagan worked very hard on this with members of his conference and they achieved it. The Affordable New York, which reforms the 421-a program – old 431-a program, to create 2,500 new units of affordable housing per year. It also pays a fair wage for workers, which is different than some of the other proposed 421-a bills. Also in this budget is a prevision for union members to deduct costs of their dues from their state taxes. The Affordable New York plan also releases a memorandum of understanding that the legislative houses have had since last year that had $2.5 billion for 100,000 units of affordable housing and 6,000 units of supportive housing.

And because Upstate matters – the budget enabled ride sharing now statewide, so companies like Uber and Lyft will come to Upstate New York. We are building a great tourist attraction, a 750 mile Empire State Trail, which will be the longest of its kind in the nation. We have a plan to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. It caps the growth of prescription drug spending and Medicaid, addressing the out of control prescription costs. Literally every item that I’ve outlined and proposed in January has been passed in the Middle Class Agenda.

And again, I think it is – if we stop there, it would have been an extraordinary budget, but as I’ve been discussing over the past few weeks, we then had an added challenge after the January State of the State, which was a new government installed in Washington. And that new government has very quickly announced dramatic plans that will have a significant effect on the State of New York and we’re going to respond. This budget has a $10 million defense project. This is something that I’ve worked on with Senator Klein and we’re very proud of. It would provide legal services to new immigrants. You want to talk about deportation? You want to talk about a philosophy on immigration? Nationally also have our own philosophy in this state. We believe in it. I’m an immigrant. We’re all immigrants. But, whatever your political philosophy on immigrants, people have rights in this nation. This is a nation of laws. And before you deport anyone, they have a right to have their legal guidance demonstrated, supported and exercised. Now, that is easier said than done. Between counsels, access to counsel, ability to pay counsel and that is what this defense project does. It provides legal services for new immigrants.

One million dollars for State Police Hate Crimes Task Force. The Hate Crimes Task Force is up and running. Given the rash of hate crimes, there have also been a number of attacks on religious schools and community centers all across the state. There is a community center that I visited in Albany, a Jewish Community Center. We are providing another $25 million for security protection and $20 million in additional support for our public schools. After 12 years of failed attempts, New York will no longer be one of two states in the nation who treats 16 and 17-year-olds as adults. This budget raise the age of criminal responsibility. This is, I think, a legacy accomplishment. They have talked about passing raise the age for 12 to 13 years. They never got it done. It was like marriage equality – tried and failed. Tried and failed. This budget does it.

Speaker Heastie worked extraordinarily hard on this issue. Senator Klein worked extraordinarily hard on this issue to find common ground. The Senate obviously had a different political attitude than the Assembly. This issue was a lightning rod for politics. It was probably the single most difficult piece in the budget. Teddy Roosevelt used to say, during his time as governor, he liked to take on the tough problems. Let someone else handle the easy ones. I try to follow that. This was a tough one. Minimum wage was a tough one. Marriage Equality was a tough one. But those are the ones that make a difference. That’s what makes them tough ones in the first place. This will affect thousands and thousands of lives immediately – sealing of records, 12,000 people. So, kudos to Speaker Heastie and Senator Klein.

We also have other criminal justice reforms. We’ve been talking for many years about videotaped interrogations for serious offenders – never happened, but today it does. Witness photo identification protection – we talked about it for many years, today it’s going to become the law.

The budget also protects our environment with our $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act. This is a big issue all across the state – it started with Hoosick Falls. We’ve seen it in communities. We’ve seen it at Owasco Lake. This is a very big issue on Long Island. Senator Flanagan has been very interested and educated on this issue and worked very hard to have a comprehensive program and I want to applaud him because that’s exactly what this is. Water quality on Long Island, given that geography, is a challenge and it’s getting worse and we’re getting ahead of it with this program.

This budget also has the first ever Federal Funding Response Plan. We were talking about possible changes that the federal government might make and how do you anticipate them. And my point was it is virtually impossible to anticipate them, so how can we do a budget in April that anticipates changes in June, July, August, September and can adjust before next year. That was always the financial challenge to me in this budget. This budget has a device that we’ve never used before. If the federal government enacts cuts to the New York State Budget either by passing a budget – the federal budget – or continuing resolution, or by the way, agencies make cuts, departments make cuts with administrative capacity. The federal government doesn’t have to pass a budget to cut funding, they can just have a department cut funding. If any of those things happen, the Division of Budget run by Mr. Mujica will come up with a plan that corrects the state budget for that shortfall. That plan will be given to the Assembly. The Assembly has 90 days to either pass their own plan to correct the shortfall or the Division of Budget plan automatically goes into effect.

This is what gives me confidence that the ship of state, the financial ship of state, what we’ve tried so hard to accomplish over seven years, the financial integrity of the state will be ok. We’re going to fight changes that are anti-New York, but whatever happens on those changes, we have a mechanism in place to correct for them and it’s not relying on the legislature coming back and acting, right? That was too risky a proposition for me, frankly. “Well you could have always called the legislature back into special session.” Yeah, but legislatures are not always quick to convene, they’re not always quick to agree and they’re never quick to cut funds, right? Legislatures prefer giving out funds, not calling up and saying, “I need you to return the money I gave you.” They’ll have 90 days because I respect the legislature, but if they don’t act at the end of 90 days, this plan goes into effect. This is what gives me the greatest security in this budget and it’s a device that we just came up with recently and if we didn’t have a device like this, I believe it would have been better to leave the budget open throughout the year so we’re sure we could adjust.

The budget also has $200 million to combat heroin which is a statewide epidemic. It has a new special prosecutor for government fraud in our transportation facilities. It affords the NYPD fair disability benefits which is something we have been talking about for two years, but now we’re going to treat the NYPD fairly. God forbid you have a disability with a police officer who pays the ultimate price, their family should be protected. This budget also has indigent legal defense program reform enacted and autonomous vehicle testing regulations.

These are difficult days. They’re very political days. You look at Washington, they talk about nuclear options, 200 years of Senate traditions go out the window. New York is not immune to the politics and in some ways this was one of the biggest plans we’ve undertaken because we had to and because we are facing the greatest challenges that we face. So it’s probably the hardest time, but probably some of the best work we’ve done as a state government and I am proud of it. At this time when people and states are floundering and people are wondering which way to go, I would say once again look to the state of New York. This plan points the right direction. I want to thank all of the members of the legislature who worked so hard over the past couple of weeks.

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