GOVERNOR CUOMO ON THE FY 2020 BUDGET: WE GOT IT DONE!
“This is probably the broadest, most sweeping state plan that we have done. There are a number of national firsts and it really grapples with the tough issues that have been facing this state for a long time. And we’ve done a lot of good work in this state, a lot of good work that has informed the nation and I think this budget is probably the strongest progressive statement that we’ve made and actually addresses many of the difficult, difficult issues that we are facing today.”
The FY 2020 Budget Fights Back Against Washington’s Assault on the Middle Class – Makes the Property Tax Cap Permanent, Limits Spending to 2% and Cuts Taxes for the Middle Class
Supports Reform of the MTA with Long-Term Revenue Streams Including Central Business District Tolling
Funds Capital Projects to Begin in FY 2020 as Part of the Governor’s Unprecedented $150 Billion Investment to Support Infrastructure Projects Across the State
Increases School Aid by Over $1 Billion, Bringing Total School Aid to $27.9 Billion, and Promotes Education Equity by Prioritizing Funding for Poorer Schools
Enacts Key Criminal Justice Reform by Eliminating Cash Bail, Restoring Speedy Trials and Transforming the Discovery Process
Strengthens Women’s Agenda Initiatives by Improving Access to IVF and Egg-Freezing Services, Instituting a Rape Shield for Sex Trafficking Victims and Investing in Initiatives to Combat Maternal Mortality
Codifies Affordable Care Act Provisions, Including the State’s Health Insurance Marketplace, Into State Law
Earlier Sunday, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the highlights of the FY 2020 Budget. The Budget includes several landmark policies that will bring sweeping transformation to the state with the passage of the permanent 2% property tax cap that has already saved New Yorkers $25 billion since it was first implemented in 2012;
a strategic MTA reform plan and steady revenue stream to fund the next capital plan through Central Business District Tolling;
an additional $1 billion to support education, bringing total education funding to $27.9 billion;
and landmark criminal justice reforms, including reforming the cash bail system, speedy trial, and the discovery process for a more fair and just New York for all, while at the same time the Budget holds spending growth at 2% for the ninth consecutive year and cuts taxes for the middle class.
A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below:
Good afternoon—evening. It all blends together at one point. We want to give you some more details on the budget beyond the five-page synopsis that we provided that I’m sure you’ve all studied. First I want to send my congratulations to Speaker Carl Heastie who has done an extraordinary job, and Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. This is probably the broadest, most sweeping state plan that we have done. There are a number of national firsts and it really grapples with the tough issues that have been facing this state for a long time. And we’ve done a lot of good work in this state. A lot of good work that has informed the nation and I think this budget is probably the strongest progressive statement that we’ve made and actually addresses many of the difficult, difficult issues that we are facing today.
I also want to thank my team. From the far left, the Budget Director, Rob Mujica and the Counsel, Alphonso David who have carried the ball on this and have done an extraordinary job. Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor, who carries the ball on all the projects. Also, Dana Carotenuto—if I have trouble with an Italian name, you know it’s a difficult one—Carotenuto, who has done, first year on the team, and she’s done a great, great job and I want to thank her.
On the Speaker’s side, LuAnn Ciccone and Blake Washington who I’ve worked with for many years who did really extraordinary work. And Shontell Smith and Todd Scheuermann who are on the team of Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. It was their first time doing this and doing a budget, $175 billion budget for the state of New York is unlike anything you have ever done before, so it’s almost an indescribable experience and they did an extraordinary job, so I want to thank them.
First thing I want to start with is a call for perspective. We’ve all been in this building for a long time. And that is one view of reality. But if we take a little bit of a step back, this is a difficult time for government. It’s a difficult time for New York State. You have a series of forces and dynamics that are at work. You start with the federal assault form Washington and $2.3 billion shortfall on the economics of this budget. The loss of Amazon and the consequences of that. Continuing need to do more upstate economic development. Criminal justice system that has been unfair for decades. And has gotten lip service and press conferences but no progress. Downstate New York, you have a traffic problem that is only getting worse, the traffic congestion. You have an MTA that has been begging for reform from the day it was created by Governor Rockefeller. I believe it was flawed by inception.
You have extreme weather and climate change that is undeniable. That needs immediate attention and it’s not going to happen from Washington, which is living in their own state called the state of denial—51st state. And you have an atmosphere of political extremism that we see on a daily basis. If you have big problems, it calls for big solutions. And that’s what we talked about last December. I did an address, we called the FDR address, where I laid out the most ambitious and progressive agenda that this state has seen. Why was it so aggressive? Because the problems are that difficult. And when you govern, you govern to the moment. You govern to the time. And you govern the best you can to handle the situations that are presented at that time. And at this time, we have more challenges facing this state then I believe at any time in my lifetime. Hence the boldness of the agenda.
We laid out the 100 Days agenda, it had 20 points, 20 major agenda items. Today is day 90 from that period of time for the 100 Days agenda. And we got every element accomplished, virtually. 2 percent property tax cap which you know. It’s $25 billion that it has saved New Yorkers—just think about that sum of money. We lowered the middle-class tax rates again up to $300,000 which is an expansive view of the middle class. We said that we had to combat SALT. I am doing everything I can to combat SALT. I’ve met with the President, I’m working on organizing Governors across the country. We came up with a number of alternatives to SALT through the tax code which the federal government rejected. I’ve been speaking with Speaker Pelosi and I will continue this fight, which I believe is the most important fight for the state of New York until we get it done.
President Trump is rolling back affordable, the Affordable Care Act. He has no alternative plan, he’s just rolling back this plan. New York State has significant legal power because we regulate the insurance industry. And we have codified many of the protections of Obamacare, so regardless of what President Trump does, we know that we have a healthcare program in New York that will protect New Yorkers. Pre-existing conditions, the 10 essential health benefits, no cost sharing, codifying New York health insurance marketplace, etcetera.
We passed reproductive health, which had long been promised. And we did that within the first 30 days. We did the women’s agenda, which we had promised, which builds on our 2019 women’s agenda that has coverage for IVF and egg freezing, which is a major boon for women who have been dealing with those issues. Couples and families who have been dealing with that issue. It’s very expensive. And you have families who could just not pursue those alternatives because economically they couldn’t afford them. It expands the rape shield, it expands domestic violence shelter requirements, increases funding for childcare by $26 billion.
On guns, we passed the Red Flag law, banned bump stocks, extended the waiting period for purchasing a gun. On infrastructure, we’ve already, we’re in the midst of the most aggressive infrastructure program in the United States of America at $100 billion, rebuilding projects all across the state and actually getting it done. We’re going to raise that to $150 billion in this budget. Nation-leading infrastructure investment.
We talked about the MTA. I did a presentation in New York and I said there’s two aspects to it. It’s M&M, management and money. I’m not going to ask New Yorkers for more money for the MTA unless I know there’s a better management system at the MTA. And this does both. I laid out 12 essential management reforms in my first presentation. This budget incorporates all 12 of those management reforms. They will fundamentally remake the MTA to a point not seen since Rockefeller created it. You could even say it’s recreating it because all Rockefeller did was make the MTA a holding company. He just took the individual corporations, he put it under one letterhead. That’s created much of the waste and inefficiency and division.
We’re actually going to do a consolidation of the MTA. We then needed a funding stream, everybody’s been talking about congestion pricing. I just spoke to a very wise reporter, not that all reporters aren’t wise of course in their own way, who pointed out that congestion pricing was first talked about in practice by Mayor Lindsey and Governor Rockefeller. And today we’ve gotten it done. First state in the nation, and it’s been done some places around the world, Singapore Stockholm London, nowhere in the United States. It forms a Central Business District, charges a higher rate for traveling in the Central Business District. It’s designed to reduce congestion, raise revenue, the revenue comes from a $5 billion mansion tax, eliminating the internet tax advantage, meaning taxing the internet purchases which will be $5 billion. And then the toll, which would be set next year by the MTA once we have the capital plan established and we know what we have to raise. The budget also eliminates the internet tax advantage, those purchases now have to pay a sales tax, that’s $5 billion.
School aid goes to the highest level up, it’s $1 billion higher, and there’s more transparency, more equity. How many press conferences have you attended hearing more funding for poor schools, more funding for poor schools? How many blogs have you written, how many articles have you written? And what have we actually done about it? We funded school districts. Not schools, school districts. And we left it to the school district to determine how to distribute the funding. And what we found out from the transparency formula was the school districts were not giving more money to the poorer schools. This says in the budget poor schools must be prioritized from a funding point of view by the district. And they must publish the numbers of how much they have funded the schools within their district. So this actually does more for poor schools specifically than we have ever done before. The argument up until now is just more money for everyone, but if it’s more money for everyone than you’re giving the richer school districts more money also who don’t need it. When the priority has always been funding the poorer school districts, well then why didn’t you say that, why didn’t you say priority for poorer schools. Well, because politically that’s difficult. Representatives want to make sure they bring money home to every school. If you believe in funding poorer schools as I do, then say and do it.
Historic criminal justice reform, 90 percent of the people who are charged will remain out of jail. You want to talk about a life changing measure, real life for people. These are people who would have been sent to Rikers Island in New York City. You are sent to Rikers Island, it can be a life changing experience, never for the better. This criminal justice reform says, eliminates cash bail, meaning cash and wealth are not a proxy for justice. The justice system never said ‘and then we’ll determine who gets to go home and who gets to sit in Rikers, depending on how much money you can raise.’ That was not justice. This eliminates that. We did not handle the violent felonies, which are the minority in terms of numbers, and that’s something we’re going to continue to work on.
Speedy trial reform, discovery reforms, we passed the DREAM Act, we passed the Green New Deal with the most aggressive, boldest mandate in the country to be 100% carbon free by 2040.
Plastic bag ban, which I am very excited about, this is long overdue, you drive through urban areas in this state and you see plastic bags hanging from trees like some bizarre Christmas ornaments. You see in waterways all across this state, plastic bags. I’ve been fishing 40 miles out in the ocean and you see a parade of these plastic bags just floating by. There was no need, we’ve been trying to get this done, we’ve gotten it done.
$300 million for the Environmental Protection Fund and the 3 cents of the bag fee, paper bag fee, goes to the EPF, which is going to be a large increase for the EPF. Safe drinking water we talked about, we’re putting an additional $500 million, it’s now a $3 billion investment.
Improvements to democracy, we have a state election holiday. Everyone will get three hours off, paid leave time to vote. Eliminate restrictions on upstate polls opening. For some bizarre reason, upstate New York could not vote with the same hours and flexibility that downstate could vote. $10 million is being provided to the counties for early voting. We synchronized the federal and state elections. We’re allowing pre-registration for minors, universal transfer of registration, no excuse absentee voting by mail, same day registration. So, it’s going to be much easier and hopefully we have much greater voter participation.
We closed the LLC Loophole, and public financing is a national model. I believe our public financing system will be the best in the United States. There are five or six other states that have already done public financing, we will be the largest state to do public financing. We’ve appropriated $100 million for that system. The Commission will come back in December with a binding system, unless the Legislature passes a law repealing that system or changing that system. So by the end of the year, we’ll have a public finance model.
Protecting organized labor was item 16 on the agenda. Again, I’m going through the agenda from December that Zack memorized at the time, because that’s the efficiency and diligence that he brings to his position. So he knows this is number 16, but of the 20 items, number 16 was protect public sector unions. With Janus we did that. Number 17 was affordable housing. We have a $20 billion affordable housing plan, largest in the State’s history.
Passed the Child Victims Act. Amen. Marge Markey, she was here before many of you people were, but she was ahead of her time. She was an Assemblymember who pushed this, and pushed this, and pushed this. And she was right. And it was achieved and what it says is ‘even if you are a powerful institution in this society, justice can still be done, and justice will be done.’
We passed GENDA to protect the LGBTQ community and we did it while maintaining fiscal responsibility throughout. It’s a 2 percent spending increase, we’ve controlled spending in this state now for nine consecutive years, and we see the results in the economic development. More private sector jobs exist in this state than have ever existed before, more private sector jobs exist than have ever existed before. Period, end of sentence.
Ninth time, on-time consecutive budget. Still more to do, knowing the cynicism of some of the people in the room. Of the 20 items we laid out in December, what did we not do? We have not legalized cannabis, adult use cannabis. The political desire is there, I believe we will get it done. It is complicated to come up with a program that does it and protects public safety, and does economic empowerment for communities that have paid the price. And the best way to do it was not in the race of the budget. And that is nothing new, we’ve been talking about it for weeks. But that’s the one item on the list that we did not get to yet.
We still have to do rent regulations, we would like to update the prevailing wage law, the so-called public works bill. But, I’ve sat in this room, I’ve been before dozens of microphones, and I said there are certain priorities in this budget. And yes, we wanted to get a budget done on time, but we wanted a good budget. And we said this is how we define good budget. It’s math, and the numbers have to add up, and it can’t be a Christmas wish list that bankrupts the state. These numbers, education funding is just about where we proposed it.
This is a budget with real fiscal integrity. I said we had to have congestion pricing done. We did. We had to have criminal justice reform, which was difficult to do. I want to applaud Assemblymember Latrice Walker who really was very helpful and very constructive, and understood the tensions, and was very helpful all throughout the process. We needed a permanent property tax cap, which was also controversial, and a lot of people didn’t want to do that. But it is essential for people outside the city who pay that tax, the property tax. They’re nervous because their property taxes may be going up because of the federal government and SALT. It was essential to say to them your property taxes are under control at least on the state side.
And we said we need a public finance system, we’ve been talking about it long enough, time to do it. And we’ve done it. Most of all, government works. This was a bold, aggressive, hard agenda. We’ve done agendas before where we had one or two big things. And we focused on getting one or two big things. Marriage equality, $15 minimum wage. This has five or six major, difficult long-term issues that had to be dealt with, and it deals with them in a fiscally responsible way. This is the leading state in terms of being progressive. We’ve established that. I believe with this plan we also lead the nation in terms of innovation, and building, and reform.
And I want to thank my colleagues in the legislature, again led by Speaker Carl Heastie, and Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. This was not an easy one. It was a hard one. But the hard ones are the good ones, by definition. It’s easy to leave the hard issues on the side. It’s easy. And that’s why they are hard issues. Because they were put aside year after year, after year, after year. Why? Because nobody wanted to pick them up. Because they were controversial and hard. Yeah, we are here to do the hard ones, because those are the ones that need to be achieved. Reform the MTA. Do congestion pricing. Do criminal justice reform. Look at the suffering that’s going on in Rikers every day, year after year. And no one is doing anything of any consequence. End it. Fix it. That’s what we’re doing.