ALBANY — Gov. Cuomo’s 2020 vision became clear on Wednesday in a State of the State address that laid out a lengthy list of liberal legislative priorities.
The governor — whose full budget proposal will be released later this month under the cloud of a $6 billion Medicaid-induced deficit — kicked off the legislative session by touting his administration’s past achievements and vowing to live up to his new promise of “making progress happen.”
“Progressive government creates an uplifting social spiral. Positive energy begets positive energy,” Cuomo told a packed room of lawmakers and policy-shapers at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in downtown Albany. “If there is no progress, there is no hope.”
A recent spate of anti-Semitic hate crimes, including a horrifying Chanukah slashing attack in Rockland County that left five people seriously wounded, prompted the governor to call for legislation creating domestic terrorism crimes.
“Government’s first responsibility: Protect the people. And we will," he said.
Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, whose Monsey home was the scene of a machete attack, delivered a blessing ahead of Cuomo’s speech.
Cuomo’s progressive plans for the coming year include rehashing several big ticket items that were left unresolved last year — the first session with both legislative houses under Democratic control — including the legalization of recreational marijuana, addressing the growing gig economy and approving e-bikes and e-scooters.
The governor said combating climate change, following the passage of last year’s passage of sweeping legislation outlining future emissions goals for the state, will remain a priority in the form of a $3 billion bond to restore natural environments and a ban on Styrofoam food containers.
He also proposed to expand workers’ rights by offering protections to gig economy workers, guarantee sick leave for all New Yorkers and expand universal pre-kindergarten for kids across the state.
“Large corporations have dominated and taken advantage of workers for too long,” Cuomo said. “Today’s economy works brilliantly for innovators, shareholders, and billionaires, but it abuses workers.”
Several city-specific proposals, many unveiled in the weeks leading up to the address, including banning serial sexual predators from New York City’s subway and overhauling Penn Station.
The governor also pitched long-sought Democratic proposals including expanding anti-discrimination protections in the state constitution, lowering prescription drug costs, cracking down on vaping and legalizing gestational surrogacy.
Banning deadly synthetic opioids, allowing liquor sales in movie theaters, and easing rules for prosecuting sexual assault involving intoxicated victims also made the legislative wish list.
“Yes, it’s robust. Yes, it’s aggressive, but we’re going to get it done,” Cuomo vowed.
The progressive promises from the governor, in the second year of his third term, come as the state must confront a budget gap fueled by soaring Medicaid costs and recently enacted bail reforms dominate the news.
Cuomo offered only a fleeting glimpse into his plans to tackle New York’s $6 billion budget gap as the majority of the plans unveiled Wednesday come with relatively low price tags, a sign that the deficit will dominate the coming legislative session.