In his annual State of the State address on Wednesday night in Albany, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo laid out his signature proposals for 2016, centered on a theme of “Built to Lead.” Within the proposed state budget, Cuomo’s agenda includes investments in infrastructure, affordable housing and homelessness, and education funding. He also touted plans for a robust paid family-leave policy, a plan to achieve a $15 minimum wage, and a comprehensive ethics package to tackle Albany’s notorious corruption.
So what did local business leaders and elected officials have to say about Cuomo’s address? The reactions, predictably, were a mixed bag.
On behalf of the Westchester business community, The Business Council of Westchester (BCW) President and CEO Marsha Gordon and Vice President and COO John Ravitz (who both attended the State of the State budget address) say they are “pleased to hear the Governor’s support of several initiatives of importance to our members and the Westchester business community.” Gordon and Ravitz singled out Cuomo’s business-friendly initiatives including enhanced tax credits for small businesses; a focus on consolidation of municipal services to reduce cost to taxpayers and improve efficiency of government; continued funding for all Regional Economic Development Councils; and a moratorium on toll increases on the New York State Thruway, which includes the Tappan Zee Bridge.
Their statement also noted that the BCW will “continue to press the Governor and Legislature for mandate relief. We will also evaluate the impact of an increased minimum wage, especially to small businesses, as well as paid family leave. The BCW’s Governmental Action Council will be carefully evaluating the Governor’s budget to assess the fiscal implications of this year’s budget.”
Yonkers Mayor and fellow Democrat Mike Spano voiced support for Cuomo’s agenda, saying, “Governor Cuomo set forth an ambitious agenda that will continue to transform New York State, make historic investments in our schools, stimulate local economies, build world-class infrastructure and tackle the issues of poverty and inequality in our cities.”
State Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Yonkers also supported Cuomo’s ideas, but called for more action out of Albany. “Unfortunately, in the past, good ideas have been met with resistance and ultimately blocked in the Republican-controlled Senate. While lofty and ambitious goals are welcome, Albany must become a place of action and not just political posturing,” she noted.
Though Rockland County Executive Ed Day felt that “Governor Cuomo’s grand agenda for New York appears overly ambitious,” he said he was “pleased that $1 billion of the state’s $5 billion bank settlement will be spent to freeze tolls until 2020 on the Thruway and the Tappan Zee Bridge, including the new Bridge.”
Not surprisingly, Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino, who ran against Cuomo in 2014, slammed the Governor, in a response with some serious bite: “Governor Cuomo saying he’s going to clean up corruption is like OJ saying he’s going to find the real killer.”
Assemblyman David Buchwald, a Democrat from White Plains, also touched on the issue of corruption, saying, “The Governor has made it clear that ethics reforms, including the forfeiture of taxpayer-funded pensions for corrupt public officials, must be a priority this year. Restoring the public’s trust in state government is fundamental, and there are common-sense measures we can pass today to achieve this goal.”
Indeed, rooting out corruption may be the only thing on Governor Cuomo’s agenda that Republican and Democratic leaders—along with citizens—can actually agree on.
If you missed the State of the State, you can watch it in full below: