Saturday, January 8, 2005

NY State of the State January 2009

Yet this is no time for fear. This is a time for action. . . . We in government need the courage to balance our budget as well as our priorities.

First, we must balance the budget. It will be painful but our state law demands it and so we shall do it.

Second, we must strengthen our health care system; improve our schools; create jobs; rebuild our infrastructure; clean up our environment; and begin a clean energy revolution.

And third, even in these difficult times, we must make sure we respect one another, serve one another and protect one another.

This year we will partner with Washington to cover an additional 400,000 New Yorkers. We will pay for this by asking Washington to let us use the Medicaid savings we have already achieved. . . . I will propose a bill allowing families to cover family members up to the age of 29 in their family coverage plans at their own cost.

While we have made some progress, we still incentivize the wrong care in the wrong setting at the wrong price. Where we are overpaying for inpatient or institutional care, we must shift funding to primary, preventive and community-based care. . . . This is why we should aggressively address the greatest threat to our children's health today, the epidemic of obesity.

Our five-point plan includes the Healthy Food/Healthy Communities Initiative, which offers a new revolving loan fund that will increase the number of healthy food markets in underserved communities.

This year, through public-private partnerships, we should work together to establish new early college high schools throughout New York. And we must expand the SAY YES program, which offers free college tuition to students who meet educational standards.

When private lenders refuse to lend to our students because of tight credit markets, we must step in. That is why I propose we establish the New York State Higher Education Loan Program, which will provide more than $350 million in affordable loans to students in need.

I further call upon our federal partners to quickly reform our system of financial regulation. But let me be clear - if the Federal government does not act, then I shall. We need sensible regulation to oversee our financial industry so that the savings and retirement funds of New Yorkers will not be at risk.

We should complete signature projects all across our State including the Peace Bridge, the Tappan Zee Bridge, the Second Avenue Subway, and the East Side Access. And we should implement the Ravitch Commission recommendations to improve an essential piece of our infrastructure, the MTA.

Most importantly, we must lower the cost of doing business in New York. Property taxes are too high. We should cap them. State mandates are too burdensome. We should relieve them. Local government is too costly. We should help it become more efficient. We should act on the recommendations of the Commissions on Property Tax Relief and Local Government Efficiency.

We should also understand that our current Empire Zone program does not work and we need to reform it. Companies that receive tax breaks from the state must be held accountable for creating jobs and investing in their facilities.

We must also reaffirm our commitment to specific programs and projects targeted at revitalizing Upstate, including the Upstate Revitalization Fund. I have tasked the Empire State Development Corporation with identifying transformational projects in our upstate communities, from enhancing the tourism infrastructure around Niagara Falls to investing in biosciences in Buffalo.

Today, I announce one of the most ambitious clean energy goals in America. By 2015, New York will meet 45 percent of its electricity needs through improved energy efficiency and clean renewable energy.

To reach our goal of "45 by 15", we will need to create a clean energy economy - that includes retrofitting homes and businesses. I call on the Public Service Commission and other public authorities to provide financing mechanisms to help New Yorkers invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy now to lower their costs and our energy burden.

The key technology needed is a rechargeable electric battery that can drive a car longer distances for less money. New York, particularly upstate New York, already possesses the research infrastructure and the manufacturing base to help develop these batteries and drive the U.S. auto industry into a cleaner and competitive future. . . . we will create an upstate research consortium on hybrid electric batteries and energy storage technologies

I call upon all parents to increase their efforts to teach their children respect for all people -- no matter their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability or national origin. And we in State government must strengthen our school-based curriculum to reinforce the critical message of acceptance and tolerance.

. . . we must go one step further. Not only must we respect one another, we must also serve one another. Here in New York State, nearly 3 million adults volunteered 397 million hours of community service last year, contributing an estimated $7 billion to our economy through their service.

We will work with our partners in the non-profit sector to recruit, train and retain more volunteers. To accomplish this, we must fund an increase in the number and capacity of Regional Volunteer Centers throughout the state. I also encourage all New Yorkers to visit to learn what they can do to serve their neighbors in need.

. . . we must implement a comprehensive strategy to support returning veterans and their families - a strategy that should include access to counseling in rural areas. . . . I urge our federal partners to fulfill their promise to provide health benefits to the first responders who acted so heroically on September 11th, 2001.

We will move forward with Operation IMPACT, a program that uses the intelligence-driven policing strategies that have been so successful in New York City to target violent crime in high-crime areas in Upstate and on Long Island. Last year, violent crime in the 17 IMPACT counties decreased by 10 percent.

Few public safety initiatives have failed as badly and for as long as the Rockefeller Drug Laws. These laws did not work when I was elected Senator in 1985, and they do not work today. At the end of this month, the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform will deliver its report.

The question is not who is hurting the most but who is best prepared to emerge from it. We are - because we have some of the best human capital in the world. Our workforce remains strong, and our vibrant university system will continue to produce high quality graduates for decades to come.