2014 State of the State Address
Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered his fourth State of the State address yesterday at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany. Gov. Cuomo spent the first few minutes highlighting the successes of his administration, which was expected since this is an election year for the governor and all members of the Assembly and Senate.
Here are some highlights from his address:
Taxes. The governor laid out most of the tax reform initiatives he unveiled earlier in the week. His tax proposal is a result of recommendations from two task forces: the New York State Tax Reform and Fairness Commission and the New York State Tax Relief Commission. The recommendations include:
- Cutting the corporate tax rate from 7.1 percent to 6.5 percent.
- Cutting the corporate tax rate to zero in upstate New York.
- Raising New York’s exemption threshold for estate taxes to match the federal government and lowering the top rate to 10 percent over four years.
- Providing a renters’ tax credit.
- Providing a freeze on property taxes for two years. Residents will be eligible for the freeze in the first year if their local governments stay within the property tax cap. During the second year, local governments must also take concrete steps to share services and reduce costs in order to remain under the freeze.
- Creating a property tax “Circuit Breaker” based on ability to pay for households that earn up to $200,000.
Eliminating regulatory barriers. Gov. Cuomo proposed creating a joint commission with the State Legislature to identify ways to eliminate regulatory barriers that make it difficult to conduct business in New York and hinder economic growth.
Reimagining New York. As a result of the damages caused by Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Sandy, the governor announced the State of New York will undertake major projects to improve and strengthen infrastructure including:
- Replacing and repairing more than 100 bridges at risk due to increasing flooding.
- Reconstructing the City of New York subway system.
- Creating a statewide Strategic Fuel Reserve and gas station back-up power on critical routes throughout the state.
- Hardening the state’s electric grid and creating 10 micro grids for communities and buildings that can operate as "energy islands" in the event of a power outage.
- Building a new natural infrastructure to protect New York’s coastline and communities.
- Expanding the $650 million NY Rising Community Reconstruction program to allow 124 communities around the state to create their own individualized storm resilience plans.
Gov. Cuomo also proposed initiatives aimed at increasing preparedness for the next major storm including:
- Building an advanced weather detection system, with 125 interconnected weather stations to provide real-time warnings of local extreme weather and flood conditions.
- Launching the nation’s first College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cyber security.
- Training a new Citizen First Responder Corps to make residents more prepared to deal with emergencies and disasters.
- Issuing special license plates for first responders.
MWBEs. Cuomo announced that New York had exceeded its goal for Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprises contracting. To continue this success and increase MWBE economic growth, the governor proposed increasing the number of MWBE-certified firms by an additional 2,000.
DWI. Gov. Cuomo wants further crackdowns on those driving while intoxicated. He is proposing that if you are found guilty of DWI two times in three years, your license would be suspended for five years. Drivers with three DWI’s would have their licenses permanently revoked.
Texting while driving. The governor wants to take further action to prevent texting while driving, specifically targeted at teen drivers. For teen drivers caught texting while driving, they would lose their license for one year.
Ethics reform. Cuomo touched on recent scandals involving legislators and reiterated his commitment to ethics reform, including public financing of elections.
He also talked about promoting tourism, education reforms, planning for casinos, legalizing the medical use of marijuana and advancing the Women’s Equality Act that failed to advance in the legislature last session.
What the Governor didn’t say. The governor did not make any mention during his speech of efforts to repeal or reform the state’s so-called “Scaffold Law.” This outdated provision in the state Labor Law is one of IIABNY’s legislative initiatives each year. The association participates in a broad-based coalition of more than 50 advocacy groups representing small and large businesses, developers, insurers, builders, contractors, municipalities and taxpayers. Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York is advocating for reform of New York’s Scaffold Law. This year, there will be a major push to advance this issue as costs for coverage and construction projects have skyrocketed.
Cuomo did mention very briefly health care reform and the fact that 241,000 consumers have enrolled for health insurance coverage through New York’s health insurance exchange (New York State of Health). He did not discuss any further reforms or changes with respect to health care.
In fact, there was no specific mention of the health and property casualty insurance industries or insurance agents, except a brief note about health insurance enrollees.
He also did not make any mention of whether New York will allow hydrofracking in the state. This hotly contested issue is still being studied.
Within the next few weeks, the governor will be releasing his Executive Budget, which will give more details on the proposals he outlined in his speech. IIABNY conducts an extensive review each year when the budget is released to identify any issues that may impact insurance agents.
Next week. The Senate Health and Insurance committees will hold a joint hearing next week on the implementation of New York’s Health Insurance Exchange and the federal Affordable Care Act's impact on individuals, sole proprietors and small businesses in New York. IIABNY Regional Director John H. Smith Jr. will be testifying on behalf of IIABNY at the hearing. Look for details later next week.