It’s a new year and a new decade in New York. And that comes with new challenges for Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature.
The governor delivered his 10th State of the State address Wednesday in Albany, hitting on his policy goals for a year that will end with an election.
Cuomo, who led off his speech warning of the impact of climate change, proposed on Wednesday $3 billion in borrowing to help bolster the state's environment. The money would be gained through a bond act, which would have to be given final approval by voters. The money would be put toward habitat restoration, as well as an effort to cut down on risk of flooding.
Cuomo also wants the money to be put toward boosting fishing recreation, fighting invasive species and doubling reef acreage.
After last year’s plastic bag ban passed the Legislature, Cuomo is also proposing bans on Styrofoam containers. The state this year could back a statewide ban on plastic straws while the governor meanwhile wants to ban plastic foam containers.
A year ago, the legalization of marijuana failed in the state Legislature amid disagreements between Democrats over how to proceed. The legalization of retail cannabis remains a more complex issue than ever before.
Cuomo has said he wants to tackle the issue along with the health effects associated with vaping and intertwine the issue with a renewed legalization push.
It’s hard to find a Democratic lawmaker of some influence in Albany who is philosophically opposed to some form of marijuana legalization. Most agree the laws nationally and in New York have slide towards a greater expansion of cannabis use. It was only six years ago the state moved to legalize medically based cannabis products.
Cuomo called on the state to work with its neighbors on how the entire region would deal with marijuana.
Cuomo proposed slashing taxes for small businesses from 6.5 percent to 4 percent — an amount of nearly 40 percent.
They employ over of the private sector workforce.
“Small businesses need extra help to grow,” Cuomo said.
The governor also said he wants to help grow the middle class and proposed a tax cut for individuals making up to $150,000 to 6.9 percent and those making up to $300,000 to 6.41 percent.
Six years ago, the state froze the cost of Medicaid to local governments to help them meet their property tax cuts. Since then, the state has been paying all the increases in local Medicaid spending.
This year alone, New York will spend $4 billion in covering the increase in the local government share.
“The situation is unsustainable,” Cuomo said. “We have restructured Medicaid before with our MRT program and we’re going to have to do it again this year.”
The state currently has a $4 billion gap in the program’s budget. Moody’s reported in December that Medicaid spending is threatening the state’s ability to close future budget caps in the coming years.
The governor didn't provide details on what the state would ask local municipalities to do — if anything — about this gap, but he named the links of Erie County and New York City for their high Medicaid costs.