Cuomo Unpacks Agenda on Dane Territory
Tuition, Upstate Revitialization, and Other Reforms in Historic State of the State
Gov. Andrew Cuomo ditched tradition for the sixth time in one week on Wednesday at the University at Albany, reaching the final stretch of a historic State of the State tour.
In front of a packed room at the Performing Arts Center, Cuomo laid out his vision for the state this year, including measures that could directly hit campus grounds.
During the 45-minute address, Cuomo championed the Excelsior Scholarship, a plan to make college tuition-free at public colleges and universities. The plan, a first of its kind in the nation, would grant free tuition to families making up to $125,000 a year by 2019.
Details for the $160 million plan have yet to be released, rousing a wave of skepticism by some lawmakers concerning how the plan will be paid for.
While remaining curious about further details, UAlbany Interim President James Stellar lauded Cuomo for his proposal.
“Let’s go with it,” said Stellar. “We need to see the details when they come out of the legislature, but I’m all for anything that produces a greater public investment.”
The Excelsior Scholarship is not the only effort lead by the governor with a potential impact on campus. Cuomo highlighted the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity (CHEC), which awarded $15 million for the university to launch two years ago.
“College — first college of emergency preparedness and homeland security right here at NANO, University of Albany,” said Cuomo, mentioning CEHC among investments in the upstate economy.
Informally known as “NANO,” the Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) has not been under UAlbany reign since 2014. Further, CEHC has no ties with CNSE.
CHEC, which is eventually set to be facilitated from the Harriman Campus, is one of several initiatives Cuomo expects to grow the upstate economy. Among revitalization efforts, Cuomo announced development projects in Schenectady and Plattsburgh.
Additionally, Cuomo called for ridesharing services to be legalized upstate. He believes the measure would draw in safer practices and stimulate the local economy.
Another proposal close to the region was for the $2 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act, an action to protect water following mass water contamination in Rensselaer County.
Among statewide proposals, Cuomo championed proposals including ethics reform, childcare tax relief, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and voting reform.
“Early voting, automatic registration, no-excuse absentee ballots,” said Barbara Bartoletti, legislative director for the League of Women Voters of New York told reporters. “If we could accomplish that, we think the could go a great distance to absolutely helping people in this state to feel as though, ‘yes, I can participate in this participatory democracy.”
Many legislators did not hear the proposed legislation at the time it was delivered. With the speech scheduled during legislative session, only three lawmakers were able to attend Cuomo’s address.
The governor’s press office told the Albany Student Press last week that the governor’s decision to bring the State of the State address on the road was intended to “bring the speech to the people.” Each speech mentioned regional issues.
However, Cuomo’s decision to bring the State of the State address on the road — after over 90 years from the Capitol (he broke this tradition last year, hosting the event at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center) — has prompted legislation on its own.
On Tuesday, State Sen. Jim Tedisco (R-Glenville) and Assemblyman Phil Steck (D-Colonie) introduced a constitutional amendment to keep the speech in the Capitol Assembly chamber.
Supporting the proposal, GOP Chairman Ed Cox alleged that Cuomo’s tour violates the State Constitution.
“The fraud here is where he’s calling these six speeches around the state ‘State of the State,’” Cox said. “It’s not ‘State of the State’ unless you’re addressing the legislature. And that sends a message to the legislature.”
The State Constitution does not make clear on the location of the address.