By LORETTA CHIN AND SEAN QUIGLEY
Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined a progressive agenda in his State of the State Address at SUNY College on Thursday with a focus on New York’s economy, education, and gender equality for women.
The theme of his speech was “New York Rising” focusing on ways to boost New York’s economy and putting limited resources where they will be most effective.
“My philosophy has been to not only treat taxpayer dollars as if they were my own money, but to treat them like my last dollar,” he said.
The auditorium held hundreds of students who seemed pleased that Cuomo had chosen their college in Old Westbury for the speech.
“I don’t work for the politicians in Albany. I don’t work for legislators. I work for you,” said Cuomo as he explained why he came to there. Cuomo called New York the progressive capital of the nation and he also called it the equality capital of the nation before tackling women’s rights and urging passage of the Women’s Equality Act by the Legislature.
The act would protect abortion rights, achieve pay equity, fight sexual harassment in workplaces, recover attorney’s fees in employment and credit cases, strengthen human trafficking laws, and other measures aimed at curbing gender discrimination.
On the budget and economy, he boasted that the $1.3 billion deficit had been reduced from $3 billion last year and $10 billion from when he came into office in January 2011, all without raising taxes. He said that without his reforms, New York would have had a $17 billion deficit today. He argued that the reductions were due to cutting bloat and entailed no cuts to non-profits or education.
The governor proposed creating “innovation hotspots”, partnerships between business and education to bring jobs back to New York. He told the audience that when people shifted jobs overseas, they learned that “when you pay for cheap labor, you get cheap labor,” emphasizing the need to train local workers.
On education Cuomo proposed increasing classroom hours in the 700 school districts.
Taking a cue from President Obama’s recent proposal to increase the minimum wage to $9 per hour, Cuomo urged raising the state minimum wage by $1 to $8.75 per hour, receiving thunderous applause from the audience.
On gun violence he applauded the Legislature for the bi-partisan decision to pass stronger gun control laws.
“We are Democrats and we are Republicans, but we are New Yorkers first,” he said.