Governor Cuomo gives a joint State of the State speech and budget address on Wednesday. The speech was delayed due to the death of Cuomo’s father, former governor Mario Cuomo earlier this month.
Because of the late date, Governor Cuomo has decided to include his budget proposals in his State of the State presentation, to give lawmakers ample time to respond and craft a spending plan before the March 31 deadline.
Cuomo has already revealed that he’ll include a property tax credit plan for New Yorkers who pay 6% or more of their income on property taxes. And he’ll be urging local governments and schools to come up with creative ways to reduce spending.
“They use the tax payer as a piggy bank,” Cuomo said.
In recent years, a property tax cap enacted by Cuomo and the state legislature 11 has held down growth of taxes to around 2% annually.
The governor also announced he’ll hold a contest among 7 economically struggling upstate regions to win $1.5 billion dollars in state funds. Only 3 of the regions will ultimately qualify, under the plan.
Another key focus will be reforming the criminal justice system, after the death of unarmed Staten Island resident Eric Garner after an encounter with police. A grand jury declined to indict any officers involved. The incident led to mass protests. Then, just before Christmas, two police officers were assassinated in Brooklyn. Cuomo says he has two main goals, restoring “public trust” in the criminal justice system, and to help police feel “respected and protected.”
Cuomo says his administration is conducting a “full review” of the grand jury system, and whether it can be more transparent, but he says he does not have specific proposals yet.
The governor is also expected to propose changes to the public school system, and revamp teacher evaluations. Cuomo has complained that while two thirds of students are failing new standardized tests associated with the Common Core learning standards, most teachers are rated very highly under new performance reports. And, Cuomo, who has had a contentious relationship with the teacher’s union, says there’s too much focus on the “lobbyists that protect the bureaucracy.”
“I want to focus on the students,” said Cuomo. “That’s why we’re in the education business, is to help the students .”
The governor has been sympathetic to the Charter School movement, which is lobbying for lifting the cap on the number of charter schools that can be built in the state. If Cuomo agrees he’ll face resistance from the Democratic led State Assembly. Speaker Sheldon Silver says he doesn’t see a need to lift the cap.
“All the charter schools are below the cap right now, there’s room for schools to be opened,” Silver said. “So I don’t know how necessary raising the cap is at this point.”
And Silver says more money for charter schools means less money for public schools.
Democrats have the most control over education policy of any faction in state government, including the governor. That’s because the legislature, in a joint session, chooses the members of the Board of Regents, and the Assembly Democrats have the largest voting block. Cuomo, when asked by reporters if he wants to change the way the Regents are chosen, did not directly answer, saying only that he’ll present a number of education reforms on Wednesday.